Smombie (“Smartphone Zombie) in the Fake News Bubble? Digital Participation and Critical Media Competence of (Educationally) Disadvantaged Young People

The discursive image of young people in the context of digitalisation is an ambivalent one. On the one hand, they are described as “digital natives” who are ahead of the older generations in many areas relevant to digitalisation and also organise themselves in the virtual space for political participation (e.g. Fridays for Future). On the other hand, young people are also pejoratively characterised with the attributes “smartphone addict”, “believer in fakenews” or briefly as “smombies”. Which of these descriptions is correct?

In fact, studies do not paint a coherent picture of young people and their role in the virtual world. For example, the existence of digital skills and the form of internet use varies greatly according to the social status of the family of origin. The quality and quantity of digital competences influenced by social origin has an impact on the possibilities of participation in the most diverse contexts. Critical media competence in particular is repeatedly described as essential for participation in democracy and is thus associated with opportunities to influence the shape of our society.

In the project, the focus is on young people in order to make (approaches of) practices of political participation, critical media competence and digital civil courage visible in a first step using qualitative research methods. For this purpose, the BFI Vienna and the IP-Center as providers of specific labour market political offers for young people could be won as cooperation partners. The young participants in these offers are not understood as “research objects”, but are actively involved in the research as experts for their own situation in the sense of a participatory approach. In a second step, these findings are to be processed and reflected upon with the involvement of practitioners and young people in a form that can contribute to an improvement of offers for the promotion of participation-enabling, transversal digital competences. As a result of the participatory research process, a compendium for practitioners in direct contact with young people will be developed.

The “Smombie Compendium” is already available for download as a guide for trainers to promote the online participation of young people.

The project is funded by the Digitalisation Fund Work 4.0 of the Vienna Chamber of Labour and implemented together with öibf – Karin Gugitscher, Norbert Lachmayr, Martin Mayerl and Alexander Schmölz.

Topics: Digitalization, Education and Training, Social Issues
Client: Chamber of Labour Vienna
Team: Nadja Bergmann, Nicolas Pretterhofer
Status: laufend
from: 2022 to: 2024