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Tyler Goulet updates us on the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement’s latest initiative:

According to John Palfrey and Urs Gasser in Born Digital, “the ability of networked activist to transform politics in some countries could prove to be the single most important trend in the global Internet culture… If these early signs turn into a bigger movement, politics as we know it is in for big changes.”

We at the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement believe these big changes are right around the corner and we’re trying to make them happen.

So far, things that happen on the internet, and stay on the internet, are not helping social movements grow as much as some hoped. An example of this is when users on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook join causes or groups that are dedicated to raising awareness about a social movement. This is often seen as the equivalent of putting a “support your cause” bumper sticker on your car.

However, social networking sites are making it much easier for anyone to connect, communicate, and organize with people in their local area as well as around the globe. The internet has made creating and executing social movements much easier than ever before.
This is great and all, except the most popular social networking sites focus more on gossip within your social network than on creating positive change in your community.

The solution to this is to create a social networking site that focuses on the goal of creating positive change in your community. is a revolutionary site that does just that. The focus is to connect teens in the Puget Sound area that care about the same social issues so that they can create positive change in their communities.

Here’s how it works.

Sean, a junior at Bellevue High, loves art. He respects the street art culture, but also knows it creates problems within a community. When an artist paints on the sidewalk or the side of a building, people become upset and damage is done.

To solve this problem, he’d like to have the city install an Art Wall, where street artist can go and display their art legally. However, he can’t do it alone and doesn’t know any of his friends who would be interested in helping him get the Art Wall installed.

Sean decides he’ll hop onto and write a blog about the problem he sees, what he wants to do about it, and if anyone else wants to help.

A few days later he sees he has 3 comments from people saying they would like to work with him to make this happen. He organizes a meeting with them so that they can do more research on the problem and solution so that they can create an action plan to make it happen.

Now, Sean is in a group of 4 people who really want to make this happen. However, they’ll need more support to really make this happen.

They decide to make a group on so that they can invite their friends to join the cause.

The group features an information section which teaches people about the problem and solution. It lets people know when they are getting together to talk about and implement the plan. It also has a few documents promoting the cause that people can download, print out, and distribute to their friends.

After a few weeks of hard work and determination the group has grown to 200 people who support the cause.

Now that they have the support they can really start to make an impact in their community.

And so the story goes Sean and his group follow their action plan and get the Art Wall to be installed so that everyone can enjoy the street art culture legally without any problems.

By using the site, Sean was able to connect with other teens that cared about the same problem as him. They worked together to create an action plan and gain enough support to implement the plan so that they could solve the problem they care about.

It’s a beautiful thing. However,, as a new initiative, is still working out all the kinks.

Check out the site and let us know what you think. What works, what doesn’t? What would make the site easier and better to use? Through comments and suggestions from you we can really make these types of sites powerful political tools.

Tyler Goulet is a Junior at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he is currently triple majoring in Communication, Political Science, and Community Environment and Planning. He has been a Research Assistant for the CCCE for nearly a year. For more information on Tyler Goulet check out

Activists in Office: Digital Natives as Future Politicians in the Middle East

In the past few weeks, we’ve written about Digital Natives as scholars, journalists, and novelists; customers and critics; even videographers. Though the oldest Digital Natives right now are still under 30 (those born after 1980, as delineated in Born Digital), they comprise a segment of the adult population that will only continue to expand. This means that they will become not only scholars, critics, and videographers, but politicians as well.

To kick off this week’s series of posts on Digital Natives as activists, I wanted to take a look at the future of Digital Natives as politicians beyond the U.S. Though we normally think of “activists” as individuals working outside government structures, it seems that governments still provide useful avenues for action. As such, those who work against the system occasionally accept the charge to work to change it from within. With the call for “Change” still reverberating through the blogosphere and collective imagination of the U.S. in the wake of the recent election, the possibility for internal activism seems particularly pertinent at the moment.

But how might this work in other countries—and in a future where digital fluency for policymakers is the norm, and not the exception? Global Voices recently excerpted one forecast by Mona Eltahawy, imagining the impact that the Middle East’s “Generation Facebook” might have on politics in the year 2033.

In Eltahawy’s essay, published by the World Policy Journal,

It’s October 2033 and Shahinaz Abdel-Salam, 55, has just been appointed Egypt’s first female interior minister. She’s about to address the nation by live holofeed to explain why she’s accepted a post that as a young woman she’d always dreamed would be abolished because, in the Egypt where she grew up, interior minister was synonymous with “chief torturer.”

As the excerpt on Global Voices continues, Shahinaz’s father

stopped speaking to Shahi for a few years after she started blogging in 2005. At the time, she would tell any journalists who would listen that she’d started to blog so that she could call the then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak a dictator…Shahi had tried to explain to her father that she belonged to a generation that would change Egypt, but to his death her father remained skeptical. He never told her that he’d read her blog secretly and was especially proud of the role model she had become for other young people when she started blogging…But Shahi’s father couldn’t imagine how a bunch of kids could change the country using their computers.

In the 2033 of Eltahawy’s world, Shahi’s father’s sentiment sounds hopelessly outdated. And perhaps it is a sign of our own times that it already sounds misguided. “A bunch of kids” have already begun to change their countries using their computers; and as their countries change, the world changes too.

Eltahawy closes her essay about the future by grounding it in the present.

Generation Facebook is the godchild of two important developments that took off in tandem over the past three years in Egypt—an increasingly bold blogging movement and street activism. Both are among the few reasons for optimism in a country where most are pessimistic about the future.

… The recent Internet-inspired activism has flipped the script—the needs of the masses have sparked a wave of unprecedented activism among young Egyptians. Bloggers have been instrumental in the conviction of police officers for torture and in getting neglected stories into the headlines.

Young Egyptians activists today, as Eltahawy’s essay illuminates, may well become the political leaders of the future. They will bring into office the concerns and causes that have occupied them for their whole lives. It seems increasingly probable that these preoccupations will arise from the swirl of information and activism that pervades the Internet. The future of politics in the Middle East (and the rest of the world) will fall to a generation of dual citizens: Digital Natives who have grown up in a liminal zone, shuttling between being online and off.

Mideast Youth: Providing platforms for public voice

This week’s “Digital Natives Reporters in the Field” series turns the microphone over to Esra’a Al Shafei of Bahrain, the 21-year-old director of student-owned

The mission of MideastYouth is “to inspire and provide young people with the freedom and opportunity of expression, and facilitate a fierce but respectful dialogue among the highly diverse youth of all sects, socio-economic backgrounds, and political and religious beliefs in the Middle East.” fights for social change with podcasts, blogs, social networks, and online video.

In this podcast, Esra’a talks about the ability of the internet to empower minorities with a voice, the mission of, and the change it has sparked in the world.

Listen to the podcast

And learn more about Esra’a, winner of Berkman Award for Internet Innovation, who when not “kicking butt” directing the ever impressive MideastYouth platform, “enjoys drinking flavored milk and writing about herself in 3rd person to remind herself of her existence.”