Participation in public discourse is critical to the democratic process. It allows us to connect and collaborate with people who agree with our political opinions and it allows us to understand, negotiate or compete with those who disagree with us. As public discourse moves online to social media, we must understand how this shift changes public discourse and what knowledge and skills are needed for youth to participate as informed, ethical and empowered digital citizens in these settings.
Thanks to the support of the Lurie College Faculty-led Student RSCA award, a research team composed of Dr. Ellen Middaugh (Department of Child and Adolescent Development) and Dr. Mark Felton (Teacher Education) hired SJSU student and Lurie College Ambassador Henry Fan as a lead research assistant for this work. During the first phase of the project, they worked with Mr. Fan to develop a coding system and sampling strategy for data analysis. The research team has had a presentation accepted for the annual conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (Middaugh, Felton & Fan, 2020). They have now begun phase 2, where Mr. Fan has helped train a team of three volunteer research assistants in our coding system. Mr. Fan also took the lead in scheduling and conducting in-depth interviews with social media participants.
The research team is currently exploring how the source and dialogic purposes of posts impact the amount, type and quality of responses on two topics of public interest (COVID-19 and DACA). They hope to disseminate their findings via publication during Summer 2020, and also use them to inform an experimental course entitled, Social Media & Social Issues (ChAD 196), to be offered during the Fall 2020 presidential election season.