ONLINE YOUTH WORK AND E-YOUTH

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1 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 1 ONLINE YOUTH WORK AND E-YOUTH A GUIDE TO THE WORLD OF THE DIGITAL NATIVES Levente Székely Dr. Ádám Nagy Budapest, 2010

2 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 2 PUBLISHER: EXCENTER PUBLISHING HOUSE Levente Székely, 2010 Dr. Ádám Nagy, Budapest, Adria u ISBN LAYOUT: Gyöngyi Illovszky

3 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 3 TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction Digital natives young people in the information society The media consumption of Hungary's youth The characteristics of the digital environment people and communities in the digital world Digital guide online youth work eparticipation The objectives and tasks of online youth work The tools used in digital youth work Basic rules for online youth workers Youth work begins where young people are Practical advice for organisations dealing with young people What role can youth work play in online space? How to get started? Bibliography Endnote Short summary of Excenter Research Center Leaders of Excenter Research Center

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5 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 5 INTRODUCTION Our society of today is often called the post-modern society or information society to differentiate it from earlier structures. This distinction is justified by completely new circumstances which are perceptible on a daily basis: for example the forms of establishing and maintaining communication have undergone fundamental changes and ICT-aided solutions are playing an ever greater role, replacing interpersonal communication. However, what must never be forgotten is that - although the medium is different there is always a person behind the digital tools and this is why the tasks of youth work extend into virtual space. In the present issue of Excenter Füzetek [Excenter Booklets] we will deal with youth work that can be and is to be carried out in the various digital spaces. We will introduce the characteristic features of this new area, and focus on the general rules that define it as well as the various features of individual media (applications). We will introduce practical examples whose success should be followed as models, and we will formulate general fundamental rules that are worth maintaining if we wish to pursue youth work in the virtual space. 5

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7 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 7 DIGITAL NATIVES YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE INFORMATION SOCIETY Let s get the difficult part over with: what is the information society and what do we mean by youth? The new structure that developed after the industrial societies, dubbed post-industrial society by Daniel Bell 1 and information society by Manuel Castells 2, is an economic, social and cultural transformation which now affects and pervades the entire world. The most spectacular manifestation of the transition to the information society is undoubtedly linked to the growing role of information communication technologies, such as the computer, the mobile telephone and the Internet etc., while, at the same, time the substantial changes apply to the whole structure of society (economic, social, cultural). Professional literature contains close to fifty definitions for the information society, and László Z. Karvalics has selected some which have preserved their power up to now. The collected definitions focus on highly divergent aspects, i.e. innovation, knowledge (e.g. Bell, Naisbitt), the production of information goods (e.g. Masuda, Nick Moore), or the role played by information and telecommunication technologies (Murányi). The short definitions below highlight very different extensions of the information society, while they all make that particular difference referred to above i.e. some aspect of the dimension of information and knowledge their organisational or central element. (Z. Karvalics, 2008) 7

8 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 8 Online youth work and eyouth The information society is an economic reality and not merely an intellectual abstraction The delay in the proliferation of information has come to an end [ ] and new activities, operations and products are gradually emerging (John Naisbitt). A society which organises itself around knowledge in the interests of societal control and the management of innovation and change (Daniel Bell). A new type of society the development and transformation of which are driven by the production of information (and not the material) goods [ ] and (which) has thus made human intellectual creativity thrive (Yoneji Masuda). A society in which [ ] information is used as an economic resource, the community exploits this more effectively, and behind all of this an industrial sector is developing which produces the necessary information (Nick Moore). A social structure based on the free creation, distribution, access and use of information and knowledge [ ] the globalisation of countless areas of life ([Hungarian] National Information Strategy, 1995). A new type of society in which the global proliferation of information and telecommunication technologies facilitate the emergence of a new lifestyle, as well as a higher quality of life, work, and social role for humankind (Murányi Béla). One of the fundamentals in the theory of the information society is the changing communication and media consumption habits. There are two important criteria in the measurability of the information society: (1) interconnectivity, for which, in regard to mutual connectedness, the psychological limit is set at above 50 percent for telephone networks, and (2) at one-third (as a proportion of the consumer basket) for purchased information and cultural goods, devices and services. (Z. 8

9 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 9 Excenter booklets VI. Karvalics, 2008) The integrated media environment and new forms of communication have introduced new concepts in the general consciousness, such as community media, simultaneous multi-channel communication and media consumption. It is practical to use age groups in regard to youth, however, the definitions and delineations found in professional literature show significant differences 3. These definitions generally approach the concept of youth in two ways: from an administrative and a developmental point of view. The former is primarily used by jurisprudence and the latter by the biological and social sciences. Although the psychological and sociological approaches are derived from the same source, they nevertheless use very different definitions and classifications. According to The Youth Field, youth is a collective term for children and young people (as well as post-adolescents). Based on the various interpretations 4 it can be stated that children and young people are not two disjunct sets but ones which overlap one another. (Nagy, 2008) The multidimensionality of the definition of youth (in regard to life circumstances and not primarily to age groups) by the social sciences stems from the fact that in everyday thinking a multifarious approach is applied to the categories of young people, children, adolescents, young adults, etc., depending on life situations and various other factors. In an earlier issue of Excenter Booklets in which the theoretical foundations for the tertiary socialisation environment are laid down, we suggest the following youth groups: children (from about 8-12 years old to about 14), adolescents (from about 14 years old to about 18), and young adults (about 19 years old to about 25-30). (Nagy-Székely, 2010) One of the most important problems of the information society is how the generation growing up now, who were born into the digital age, will transform society as we know it and how it will transform them. Young people can be regarded as digital natives a term coined by 9

10 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 10 Online youth work and eyouth Marc Prensky for various reasons. They are the first to have been able to master the use of the new ICT. The acquisition of this competence not only puts less of a strain on the net generation 5 but it happens spontaneously and naturally. (Rushkoff, 1996) Furthermore, the members of this generation not only master the ICT tools and contents but also tailor it to their needs. To a great extent this everyday use transforms their information acquisition, information consumption, communication and media consumption habits, setting them on a different path to the habits of older generations. (Prensky, 2001) The special situation of youth (from an information society standpoint) can be clearly seen when we look at the international indices of ICT access and usage, in which Hungary taking the population as a whole performs poorly from one year to the next. At the same time, according to a breakdown by age, young people in Hungary are moving together with the global changes. At the beginning of 2010 more than half 6 of Hungarian society and nine tenths 7 of young people (14-29) used the Internet; in the case of teenagers this proportion is even greater. It became obvious that in many respects this generation differs from other generations. They are typically open to cultural contents, attracted to group activities and communal space, achievementcentric and confident, and at the same time are modest, identify with the values professed by their parents, and they are well educated (school is important for the majority, as is good academic performance). The youth generation has three important characteristics which are particularly important for those who design services: multitasking: they consume on several channels at once (their simultaneous consumption exceeds the quantity that can be physically consumed by a single individual). Domestic and 10

11 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 11 Excenter booklets VI. international research findings show that they spend more time on media consumption per week than the time required by a full time job. According to data from 2007, an average non-internet user spends more than 40 hours per week consuming media, while this figure is more than 50 for an average Internet user. (Székely, 2008) info-support: for some time now young people have required infoassistance instead of tech-support. the great majority of young people have no kind of reflective awareness of the legal and institutional framework of Internet use, which is their typical and customary activity. (e.g. downloading, exchanging files). According to the findings of Youth2008, young people have considerable CD-DVD collections at home, of which approximately half are copied. Many attempts have been made at summing up the characteristics of the digital generation. Based on Prensky, these are as follows: they can take in information quickly, they can process information on parallel channels and perform tasks simultaneously (multitasking), they give preference to images and sounds over text, they have a preference for accidental connections (hypertext), they excel at working in a network, they strive for the immediate and frequent gratification of their desires, they prefer games to serious work, and they regard technology as a friend and not as an inconvenient but necessary evil to work with. 11

12 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 12 Online youth work and eyouth Based on Rushkoff, the digital generation can be linked with six trends: the fall of linear thinking the rise of chaos 8, the fall of duality the rise of holism 9, the fall of mechanism the rise of animism 10, the fall of gravity the rise of consensual hallucination 11, the fall of metaphor the rise of recapitulation 12, and the fall of God the rise of nature. The media consumption of Hungary's youth While studying the cross-section of youth and the information society we almost immediately come across the issue of changing media consumption and communication habits, where we find ourselves face to face with the phenomenon of young people deviating from the habits of older generations. In an earlier study about the connection between the quantity of media consumption and age (Pintér Székely, 2006) it was proven to be the case that quite a few stereotypes related to the media consumption of youth had no foundation whatsoever. On the basis of the data the stereotypes studied, i.e. that youth watch a lot of TV, read little and spend a lot of time telephoning, turned out to be false. Based on the findings of the 2004 World Internet Project study, it can be stated that the age group, referred to as the youth of today, read the most books in Hungary today, while the under age group and those aged and above spend a similar (not significantly less) time reading per week. 13 Although young people read books the most, with more than four tenths of the age group and approximately one third of the older generations reading books at least once a week, it seems that the readership of newspapers is simply dying out, because the younger age groups spend less and less time reading newspapers. 12

13 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 13 Excenter booklets VI. Listening to music is an area where the stereotype is true, as young people listen to the most music and the most frequently. It is in this activity that the greatest quantitative difference can be found between the various age groups. Over half (56%) of young people (aged 14-29) listen to music daily, while a total of somewhat more than a quarter of the middle-aged (30-59) do the same and a mere 5% of the old (above 60) do this. We found the generational cut-off point in the case of the age group, who spend close to 9 hours listening to music, which is significantly less in the age group, who represent the reference category. In the background of quantitative differences are various cultures of listening to and sharing music, presumably structured according to age groups. The young people of today were socialised in a world dominated by sharing and downloading mp3 files and the portable mp3 player where good music is easily and quickly and in part illegally obtainable. Therefore, the music industry must in the long run accept that the present business model is unsustainable, just as newspapers and publishers must, but, in a paradoxical way, the reason for this is just the opposite: the challenge faced by the music industry is not the dying out of the segment but rather the growing and increasingly insatiable needs of consumers satisfied through alternative sources outside the market, i.e. the illegal downloading of music. The general picture about how listening to the radio is divided between the different age groups focuses more on content (public vs. commercial) than on quantity, although this does not mean that there is not a difference. The frequency with which young people listen to the radio demonstrates a similar pattern to reading newspapers, i.e. approximately 10% fewer young people aged between 14 and 29 listen to the radio on a daily basis than older age groups. In regard to the amount of time spent listening to the radio per week a cut-off point can be observed at the age of 22-23, from which point those surveyed reported that they listen to significantly more radio. In the case of radio 13

14 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 14 Online youth work and eyouth it can be claimed that although its continuation is not really threatened by the Internet, it is a valid question how fast the currently operating stations will recognise the potential inherent in the Internet and Internet radio. We found noteworthy connections in regard to telephoning and age, since in the dimension of quantity just as in the case of books we found a reversed pattern as compared to what the stereotype assumes, i.e. it appears that young people do not talk a lot more than older people on the telephone. However, when we consider the frequency of using the telephone, we find that two thirds of young people (aged 14-29) use the telephone every day, while half of the middle-aged people surveyed, and in total one quarter of old people behave in the same way. The difference probably stems from divergent use, i.e. young people typically use the telephone for conversations in their free time as opposed to official, work-related calls. We observed that the frequency and amount of time spent watching television is far more unambiguous; however, the findings appear to contradict the stereotype, according to which young people watch a lot of television. The majority (86-87%) of young people (14-29) watch television every day, but the proportion of older age groups who do the same is over nine tenths (93%). In regard to the time spent in front of the television, the oldest age groups demonstrate a prominent result, with those aged spending close to 24 hours per week watching television, and, in comparison to this, the television time of young people can be regarded as extremely moderate. We were able to verify the findings of earlier research in the more upto-date databases. The graph below shows the average time spent per week on the Internet. The data clearly show that the young age groups significantly differ from the older age groups not only in the categories of use and non-use dichotomies, but also in the quantity of use and based on other research it can be claimed that the quality of use. 14

15 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 15 Excenter booklets VI. Fig. 1: The structure of media consumption according to age groups (hours/week) (Source: Székely, 2008; World Internet Project, 2007) The above graph shows that the media consumption of young people in regard to both the time spent with the given medium and the frequency of consumption fundamentally differs from that of older generations, and in many cases contradicts the prevailing stereotypes. In many cases the generational cut-off point in regard to time spent using a particular medium can be found in the second half of the twenties. This is no coincidence since this is the age group where in most cases integration into the labour market takes place, and the other reason is probably the changing consumption habits and needs that result from starting a family. However, it is completely certain that a cohort effect also exists, on the basis of which people heading towards their late twenties differ from the teenagers of today, who are already imbued with the value system and socialisation of the digital age. A questionnaire of the World Internet Project provided the opportunity to examine the (perceived) importance 14 of certain media in regard to age. (Székely, 2006) In addition to asking about the importance of 15

16 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 16 Online youth work and eyouth the traditional media (television, radio, daily papers, magazines, books) the WIP study of 2004 also asked about the importance of the Internet as a source of information and entertainment 15. The deemed importance of various media in order was as follows: television, radio, daily papers, books, magazines, the Internet. This, therefore, means that according to the evaluation of those surveyed the most important media are television and radio, the written media are less important, and the importance of the Internet is significantly less, with its evaluation being significantly less favourable primarily compared with the average of television. Based on the data it can be claimed that the interviewees regard television, radio and daily papers as more important and the Internet as not important. The evaluation of books and magazines was ambivalent. Table 1: Media evaluation in the 14+ age group Medium Importance as a source Importance of information as entertainment Television Radio Daily papers Books Magazines The Internet (Source: Székely, 2006; World Internet Project, 2004) The findings of the research demonstrate that the evaluation of individual media differs according to age: young people regard the importance of certain media, and primarily that of the Internet, differently than do old people 16. In their evaluation of traditional media it is observable that the media that young people regard as more important than 16

17 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 17 Excenter booklets VI. the average (e.g. books and magazines) are in the case of old people regarded as less important than the average, and, vice versa, the media regarded as less important by young people (e.g. television, radio) are reported as being more important by the members of the older generations. If we add the Internet to the above picture, we can observe that its importance decreases almost perfectly linearly with age, while, in regard to the important-not important dimension, it literally cuts in half the web of lines showing the more or less changing evaluation of (traditional) media by various age groups. Thus, the evaluation of the Internet by age is far more extreme than that of other media, with young people regarding the Internet as of far greater importance than older people do. Fig. 2: The importance of individual media according to age groups (Source: Székely, 2006 (World Internet Project, 2004) The qualitative research (with focus groups) we carried out in 2007 with the explicit aim of studying media consumption established that the ICT consumption of young people significantly differs from that of older generations. Young people handle ICT tools with far greater self- 17

18 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 18 Online youth work and eyouth confidence, and their selection of content demonstrates a far higher level of consciousness than many people would credit them with. They know what they are consuming and why; moreover, a high degree of rationality is shown by the fact that they often do matching activities in parallel, thus effectively exploiting the limited free time available to them. The research unambiguously demonstrated that young people regard the Internet as the first and foremost medium, and this is equally true in regard to information and entertainment contents. (Urbán- Székely, manuscript) There is no doubt that the spread of the Internet has primarily supplanted the traditional media. It is clearly perceptible that television has lost ground. The information gained from the focus groups fully support the trends measured by market researchers: in youth age groups the time devoted to watching television has decreased dramatically. A TV set placed in a young person s bedroom is not at all as attractive as it was some years ago. The importance of music for young people is almost indisputable. It can be claimed that, if given the chance, they would listen to music continuously. It is clear that the free if not necessarily legal and huge choice available plays a major role in this. It also transpires that listening to music which is also typically done through the computer wonderfully supplements other online applications: while users browse the Internet, play games or just pursue personal communication (e.g. chat) some kind of music is constantly playing in the background. This has certainly contributed to squeezing the television into a more minor role since using the computer and listening to music simultaneously tie down the consumers attention and thus there is no need for the television. Reading does not really fit in well with the consumption of other media, and in the youth age groups it is rather a compulsory activity (studying), and time spent in certain situations (e.g. travelling, holi- 18

19 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 19 Excenter booklets VI. days); at home reading is not regarded as a form of relaxation. The research subjects read magazines but daily papers have practically lost their function, considering that young people keep themselves informed from the Internet. Parallel consumption clearly manifests among young people especially in the case of online media (running various computer applications at once), but it occasionally appears in the online-traditional media mix (e.g. watching television and using the Internet simultaneously). Similarly to the international findings, it transpired from our focus group research that the younger the subjects we studied, the more characteristic multitasking was, even though there are differences within certain age groups, e.g. attributable to psychological characteristics, habits or even the size of the household. It transpired that even in the case of those who excel at multitasking in situations that demand concentration (e.g. when carrying out an absorbing task) they give up parallel tasks and at such times try to pay attention to one thing. It is no coincidence that multitasking is primarily linked to the various forms of communication and entertainment, thus e.g. to using IM or listening to music. (Urbán-Szekely, manuscript) The characteristics of the digital environment people and communities in the digital world The above shows that media consumption which occupies a significant part of free time, i.e. the tertiary socialisation environment is increasingly linked to the ICT devices, i.e. the digital media. Of course when we start to talk about digital media and virtual environment we cannot help comparing it to the real world. However, it is important that we do not regard these as being diametrically opposed but rather as supplementing one another. It is a fundamental error to think that that events that take place in the virtual world are detached from real life and 19

20 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 20 Online youth work and eyouth real relationships. The digital environment is merely a part of reality and not an entity separate from it (e.g. a blog and avatar belong to a teenager s personality just like his or her physical appearance and favourite type of music). From all of this it can be concluded that virtual communities closely resemble real communities, at least in regard to individual attitudes. For a long time one of the factors that determined the formation of communities was geographical proximity: communities could not form between individuals living far apart from one another (since they were unable to interact closely). This geographical constraint was lifted through ICT, thus allowing human relationships and emotions to be expressed in many ways. The first virtual community that became known, The WELL (The Whole Earth Lectronic Link), is linked to Howard Rheingold and was a group of people who perhaps even know one another personally but basically contact each other through the exchange of ideas with the help of the computer network. Although these communities generally had a geographically determined local center, people were able to log on to the community from distant locations through the Internet. These kinds of online communities were set up and continue to be set up because of some kind of objective, problem or shared interest. Virtual communities have always been studied from the perspective and in comparison with traditional communities. Comparison often appears as confrontation, i.e. the characteristics of the real communities are contrasted with those of the virtual community. The question is: does the virtual community differ from the community as understood in the traditional sense, and if it does, according to what parameters? The proponents of differences can also be divided into two groups according to which type of community they regard as the more favourable based on the differences. Among people who approach the development of technologies with a positive attitude are those who believe that virtuality 20

21 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 21 Excenter booklets VI. offers totally new experiences, as if individuals were leaving their physicality behind and join these communities in this way. The elimination of the outward (bodily) dimension, or its being pushed into the background, has a major advantage since for individuals surrounded by prejudice (e.g. minorities or handicapped people) an opportunity opens up to experience a prejudice-free environment. According to those who contrast the virtual communities with the real communities, the virtual ones are of less value, impersonal and mere shadows of their counterparts organised in the real world. According to those who emphasise the similarities over the differences, a community per se whether online or offline is itself virtual in the sense that it is indirect and imaginary, and virtual communities cannot be regarded as being inferior on the sole basis that personal contact is missing from them. We can only talk about purely virtual communities when the members keep in contact with one another exclusively through the Internet (or another ICT tool). In these cases the association is most often organised around the Internet or some kind of online activity (e.g. online games). In other cases keeping in contact is not limited to the Internet alone as the members often keep in touch by mobile telephones or meet in person. Based on all of this it can be concluded that the goals of youth work are similar whether carried out in a real or a virtual environment and the criteria of success also largely resemble one another. At the same time it is a fundamental error to exclusively define virtual youth work by criteria that do not approach participation in a general sense but narrow it down to physical participation. In other words, the performance of a youth worker does not depend solely on how many young members he manages to persuade to participate in offline events. However, in many cases the digital environment itself has different characteristics to a face-to-face situation, and from this it follows that different approaches are often required. The differences can be summarised as follows: 21

22 Ex6 10/9/2 9:38 AM Page 22 Online youth work and eyouth Time and space: Up until now the natural environment played a determining role in forming communities but in the digital environment this solid basis disappears. The boundaries of the physical world become blurred, as time is given a different kind of emphasis, thus, for example, what we do in the digital environment leaves a trace. Speed: In the digital environment information (the message) spreads with dizzying speed, it can be rapidly converted, shared and is almost always retrievable. For many people this increased speed is oppressing and is often cited as one of the disadvantages of our age. Freedom: Because of the democratic nature of technology having once stepped over the threshold of access anybody or any community can achieve major publicity on the Net. Complexity: The digital media combine text, image, sound and data with one another, so we receive the complex messages in a complex way with multimedia perception and through joining multi-networks. Interactivity: The digital environment does not merely afford its participants the possibility to expand interaction but also allows interactivity to turn into a natural and common practise and thus it is increasingly the consumer who edits the content. Interconnectivity (always on): The tools of the information society give us the feeling that we are constantly connected. As a result of ICT convergence, the mobile telephone, the computer and the Internet are increasingly blending together into a system providing a unified, permanent and interactive connection. 22

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