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Contesting Cultural Control: Youth Culture and Online Petitioning

January 1, 2008

Part of the Volume on Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth. We analyze one way in which younger citizens are engaging with issues that they find important and relevant to their lives, however removed these activities may seem from classic visions of civic engagement, by considering the convergence of three trends: (1) protest once confined to political arenas is diffusing to seemingly non-political contexts; (2) affordances of Internet technologies make it easier to organize and participate in forms of online activism such as online petitioning; and (3) many consumers are using technology to transform themselves from passive purchasers to "prosumers" who produce, modify, and consume content. Specifically, we examine online petitions about entertainment-related issues and products, finding that cultural contestation is a substantial online phenomenon, that it tends to focus on issues and products associated with youth culture, and it is sometimes supported by communities, including fan communities. We argue that this kind of cultural contestation has been missed in most discussions of civic engagement but may provide important early activist experiences for younger citizens.