Knight News Challenge winners are meeting at MIT to discuss the future of civic media. The focus has been on PARTICIPATORY culture and the skills that the youth and others need.

Problems that have been identified include the following:

Transparency problem: people are swimming in media

Participation gap: resources growing in the life of young vs. those who are alienated from the resources. While more information and laptops are available in public spaces, usage and time are limited. Also, users can’t store information, etc.

Ethics challenge: norms and standards of the journalism profession are still stressed, High school students are writing and participating online with increased public access, creating exciting new modes of expression. However, these new modes are rarely understood by adults, so there’s less mentorship.

How can we encourage and influence these young folks?

Social skills and cultural competencies are needed. One way to develop such skills is through civic engagement which is occurring in Computer Clubhouses. These online groups function with the following goals:

Support learning through design experiences
Help youth build on their own interests
Cultivate an emergent community of learners
Create an environment of trust and respect
Empower youth and enrich community.

Through these clubs, youths are engaging with each other and learning from each other. Adults are also mentoring the work of youths closely. There are 124 clubhouses in 21 countries. Examples include the LA Youth Development Organization and the Miami…Little Haiti Housing Organization. Researchers are looking to engage with the communities where clubhouses are located around the world to study how they act as a community centers, bridge gaps between multi-lingual communities and immigrant communities.

The goal of most the projects being discussed at MIT this week is to look at what is needed to support and engage online local communities. Civic engagement connects us, so it is important to get people to think about collective identity. Most of this can be done through free and open-source software.