From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in a Digital Age





Course Description: Digital and social media platforms have brought about rapid and fundamental changes in the political landscape of our digital age. While those new technologies shape the ways we perceive and read the world, gather information, communicate with others, shape public opinions, and make political judgments, the institutional and electoral arenas have lost the monopoly of political decisionmaking. Instead, there now exist multiple levers to make political influence. Amidst this very change, young people rise as key political actors and re-write the meaning of political. This course will introduce students to an array of research and concepts that help clarify the political landscape in a digital age, as well as inviting them into close consideration of a set of design principles to guide effective, equitable, and self-protective civic agency in the contemporary communications environment. Student engagement and active inquiry in class is crucial. For a group project, students will conduct case studies to connect theory with practice and share their knowledge with their peers.

Case Study  -- "Own Your Knowledge"


Case study is a signature project for Gov94CZ. Students choose a case (any group, any organization, or any single person) that matters to them, and they investigate their cases using the Ten Questions. Students situate their case in the theoretical context discussed in class.  In fall 2016, Students brought cases from all different corners of the participatory politics terrain: Veganism, Reclaim Harvard Law School, Get Out To Vote (GOTV), and Harvard Civics Program

"Own your knowledge."  We want students to create their own meanings from their experiences both in and beyond class. Lecture and readings are important, of course. But they are not the best way to own knowledge. Connecting theories, knowledge, and practices you hear from the class to your lived experiences begins with an authentic question that matters to you. Simply, what do you care about? And why does it matter to you? It does echo the first principle of the ten. Then, how do you proceed to the next steps? You engage in the inquiry cycle originally drawn from John Dewey.

Inquiry Cycle
Inquiry Cycle (cited from Chip Bruce's "What is inquiry-based learning?"

Once you come up with an essential question that connects with your life, you can investigate through multiple methods, sources, and media. Any tangible products can derive from investigation––the tangible product in our class will be your case study. Note that your creation is inseparable from other steps, especially discussion and reflections. You need to discuss meanings and lessons of your creation with others and then go back to previous steps, namely investigation and creation, and tinker with your creation.

In the end, you­ and your audience––now your instructors and peers but beyond that down the road––are all invited to a broad vista to “look back” at the whole inquiry process and generate further meanings together. These five steps, of course, are neither linear nor discrete. Rather, they are embedded in one another. The point here is that this inquiry cycle can break down your inquiry processes––typically complicated and less articulate––into small pieces and monitor your own meaning making experiences. In completing this process you claim the ownership of knowledge. Though the knowledge is provisional and tentative, you can own it for a moment. Please see the related posts: “The YPP Action Frame with Inquiry-Based Learning II: "Small Inquiry" and "Big Inquiry"” and “The YPP Action Frame with Inquiry-Based Learning I: An Inquiry Cycle” from the YPP Action Frame site.

How Students Conduct Case Study?

Team up with your peers (2 or 3 students in one group) to conduct a case study. What kind of case study? You could start by writing a captivating story around the case. We will discuss several real world cases during class, and you can imagine emulating one of them. The case study can be like a journalistic report in which the story can be situated in particular theories and perspectives we discuss in class. The cases we address there are quite lengthy, but you are not necessarily required to write such a long paper. What matters most is the content and message you want to deliver through the case; this project is an exercise both to express your creativity and practice research skills. It is broken into small pieces (P1, P2, P3-1, P3-2, and P3-3) to help you complete the end project (P4) effectively.

  • P1. “Why it matters to me/us”

    • Choose your case––any case you can think of that matters to you and is safe enough to share with others. Yes, these first two elements already echo YPP Action Frame’s principle 1 (“Why does it matter to me?”) and principle 2 (“How much should I share?”).

    • The case can be anything (any group, any organization, or any single person) that matters to you in connection with a large theme of the course: Youth, media, and participatory politics. Be creative and flexible in choosing your case.

    • Introduce the case, explaining why the case matters to you, what you want to talk about in the case, spelling out main issues you would want to explore.

    • Try to situate the case in one or some of theoretical perspectives discussed in class.

      • You are welcome to challenge the existing viewpoints and values, as well as defending them. For instance, we see the three values––equity, efficacy, and self-protection­­––as “timeless but not dogmatic” (quoted from Tom Hayden’s reflection about the Port Huron Statement at 50 (Links to an external site.)). If you find other ideas and values pertain to your own case, please bring them to our class through your own inquiry-cycle.

    • Describe briefly a general plan about how to investigate your issues:

      • What sorts of data would you need to understand the case?

        • Who would you want to talk with you?

        • What would you observe?

        • What existing data would you want to explore?

        • How do we analyze them?

      • What is your position in the case?

    • Due: Week 5 (A 6 to 8 page statement, or longer if desired)

    • Please talk with Chaebong beforehand

  • P2. “What we discovered so far”

    • Share your interviews, observation pieces, artifacts, or any relevant data, and how they support your case and arguments. Or share anything new or unexpected you found.

    • Due: Week 10

  • P3-1. Presentation: Week 12

  • P3-2. Add Discussions and Conclusion based on feedback from the presentation

  • P3-3. Individual reflection note. This portion is spared for individual reflection about the collaborative research-learning activities. As members on the same team, you share a common ground for the case, but that does not necessarily mean that you share exact thoughts with others. Thus, this individual reflection paper gives you an opportunity to flesh out your own thought­­ or ideas around your case or your collaborative thinking activities.

  • P4

    • Compile P1 to P3-3

    • Submit by due date: By 5 pm on December 17, 2016




gov_94_cz_syllabus_fall_2016.pdf413 KB