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Civic Laboratories: Youth Political Expression in Anonymous, Ephemeral, Geo-Bounded Online Social Networks

Mon, May 28, 14:00 to 15:15, Hilton Prague, Floor: M, Yoga Room (Cybex Health Club)


Despite the purported theoretical importance of political expression for young citizens, research in this area has frequently focused on Facebook, where young people often approach expression with trepidation and uncertainty. Accordingly, we explore experiences on the mobile social media app Yik Yak, whose affordances (i.e., anonymity, geo-boundedness, ephemerality) may offer a unique infrastructure for youth political expression. Through a series of in-depth interviews, we find that Yik Yak’s affordances allowed users to assess the opinions of their peers, learn about political issues relevant to them and in some cases, articulate their own political voice. Participants also raised serious concerns over whether political communication on an anonymous social network sites (SNS) could result in substantive dialogue or meaningful change. Our findings suggest that SNS like Yik Yak create civic laboratories, which maximize experimentation with political expression while minimizing the social risks that can be encountered on sites like Facebook.