Young Adults' Online Participation Behaviors: An Exploratory Study of Web 2.0 Use for Political Engagement
Frank Bridges, Lora Appel, and Jens Grossklags
Recent initiatives by the United States government are seeking to enhance the transparency and openness of its decision finding processes. At the same time, increased use of interactive web and social media technologies as well as the integration with online social networking platforms suggests that citizens have unprecedented access to government representatives. In this paper, we report results from an exploratory usability study involving average young adults in an engagement task. More precisely, we observed college students while they searched for appropriate online contact points with the federal government to communicate concerns related to various problem domains. We report a mixture of quantitative and qualitative results including an analysis of post-study interviews with the participants. Less than 30% of our subjects were able to accomplish the objective of the given task scenarios. We find that a combination of individual and institutional factors limit participants. In addition, we do not observe a significant utilization of cues related to online social networking tools. We attribute this finding to a still limited acceptance of such communication tools for political participation by average young adults.