Constellations of environmentalism: an exploration of learning and activism within youth-created social media interest groups

Field, Ellen (2016) Constellations of environmentalism: an exploration of learning and activism within youth-created social media interest groups. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

Online social networks have become embedded within most young people's everyday lives (Green & Hannon, 2007) and have become the number one online activity for youth (Lenhart, 2015). Both the availability of online information and the rise of social networks have impacted how young people engage in knowledge production, communication, and creative expression (Ito et al., 2009) opening up discourse on the educative possibilities of these spaces.

This research project has explored how youth in varying geographic locations around the world use social media platforms to engage with their peers in environmental learning and environmental activism. The results of this multiple case study comprise multiple perspectives from youth from eight different countries, map characteristics of youth-focused social media networks, and explore how these affinity spaces foster learning and activism. In this regard, this project provides a typology of youth social media usage for learning about and engaging in activism on environmental sustainability issues. This typology responds to the overarching research question of the study: “How are youth using social media sites for learning about and engaging in activism on environmental sustainability issues?”

This research project is situated within an interpretivist/constructivist paradigm and is primarily focused on how youth engage in social media practices and understand their subjective experiences of social media, as well as how these experiences inform their learning and activism. The youths' accounts do not result in a definitive or generalizable theory of global youth social media usage, but these accounts elucidate the substance, structure and dynamics of informal interest-driven learning as understood by youth participants. Data collection consisted of an online questionnaire, interviews, and social media data capture. The online questionnaire provided context on how youth use technology, frequency of use, and how they position social media in relation to environmental learning and activism. The online questionnaire also provided opportunity for youth to volunteer to participate in a 6 month social media observation period. Using Nvivo 10's NCapture, youth's personal profiles along with their participation in one environmental social media interest group were captured. Interviews were conducted at the commencement of the observation period and at the end of the 6 month period.

All data were analysed qualitatively and resulted in three results chapters: Chapter 4 presents a summary of findings from the online questionnaire, individual cases of youth participants and their respective networks, and a cross-case analysis drawing upon several aspects of the structural aspects of the environmental social media interest groups. Chapter 5 presents youth perspectives and reflections on their learning within environmental social media interest groups and Chapter 6 presents youth perspectives and reflections on activism.

The cases and chapters on learning and activism offer evidence that within informal environmental social media interest groups important learning, identity development, and antecedents of democratic civic processes can occur. There are several examples of substantive knowledge about environmental sustainability issues deepening as a result of youth participating in environmental social media interest groups. There are also examples of the importance of the relationships which are developed, fostered, or continued through online engagement in these spaces. This research project has culminated in results which provide insights and considerations into how interest-driven learning can be fostered and supported through adopting a connected learning approach within formal education systems, along with important considerations for education for sustainability and hopeful educational futures.

Item ID: 47914
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: blended learning, environmental activism, environmental learning, identity development, interest groups, interest-driven learning, learners, learning, online learning, social media, social networks, sustainability education, young people, youth
Date Deposited: 17 Mar 2017 03:53
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130201 Creative Arts, Media and Communication Curriculum and Pedagogy @ 20%
13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified @ 40%
13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130306 Educational Technology and Computing @ 40%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970113 Expanding Knowledge in Education @ 50%
93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9301 Learner and Learning > 930102 Learner and Learning Processes @ 50%
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