The story of the Australian Youth Forum — the political and social realities behind online technological solutions in youth political communication
thesisposted on 2017-03-01, 04:53 authored by Pillay, Prashanth
This thesis examines the difficulties in using online media as a tool to solve youth political engagement problems. It argues that online media has complicated the relationship between the government and young Australians, highlighting the practical difficulties of operationalising effective political communication practices. The Australian Youth Forum (AYF), Australia’s main online government project to raise low youth public engagement levels, is used as a case study. Originally intended as a solution to low youth participation levels, the AYF soon became part of a broader problem concerning the management of youth political communication platforms, reviving historically familiar government struggles against citizen efforts to decentralize youth political communication projects. Through a textual analysis of interview transcripts with government officials, youth postings and policy documents, it is asserted that there are key differences between idealised visions of media influence and technological outcomes in reality. Drawing on key ideas surrounding the mediatisation of political communication, it is explained that the introduction of online media brings forth bureaucratic hurdles, policy challenges and conflicting expectations over how to use technology purposefully. The AYF examplifies the overall difficulty in assessing what it means when governments look to technology for solutions. It also shows how online initiatives may not necessarily work as anticipated. Online media and associated government regulations are appropriated in culturally specific ways that gradually inform and modify media technology’s initial purpose. These dialectical forces of media influence have significant implications for how the success and failure of such initiatives are assessed.