A new module within the Communication, Media and Culture programme not only introduces students to theories and practice of news production in digital contexts, but challenges them to engage as citizens in local and wider communities.
Students are encouraged to consider themselves as citizens of a range of communities, and to reflect ways in which they engage with global and local matters. As a part of their assessment they produce blogs on an issue important to them.
Topics included: EU membership; generational political differences; religious identity; the politics of high heels; sexist cultures in local student nightlife; and student funding and the need for financial education in schools. Some students engaged more directly with local communities in Oxford as they researched their stories, venturing onto the city’s estates and talking to residents to offer a refreshingly positive view of less-visited parts of the city.
This module countered the popular myth of a politically and civically disengaged generation. Not only have students shown how interested they are in issues from the global to the hyper-local, they are going out and getting involved. It has also been great to have guest speakers including a journalist from our local Oxford Mail newspaper Sophie Scott, and a colleague and blogger for the Huffington Post, Professor Beverley Clack, to show where some of these ideas can lead.
Dr Michele Paule, Module leader
Comments from students
My blog was built on the premise that university students are often cut off from the surrounding community. It aims to engage student readers through countering some of the stereotypes of Oxford’s council estates and showing how residents are active, positive citizens. In this way I hope my blog both demonstrates and addresses civic engagement.
Writing the blog made me realise how powerful even the smallest amount of political action can be. Not because it changed the world but because it changed me. Trying, successfully or not, to convey my opinions on how things work and what is important, made me reflect on why I think these things in the first place. I’m not sure I feel more or less like a citizen but I do feel more connected to the issues and ideas I find contentious or inspiring.
Annelie, generational political differences
As young people today feel more and more that we should be supporting social causes, there is no better way to get involved than to take to the internet – we are, after all, the ‘digital generation’. In creating the blog post for this assignment, it seemed very important to write about something that I was politically involved in, and passionate about. It’s my opinion that student feminism has never been so relevant.
I had not given much thought to what it means to be a citizen and if I were to be asked I would have been unable to explain what this term even meant. Through the module I have been able to explore varying ideas of citizenship and what contributes to becoming a citizen. It has encouraged me to think differently about becoming involved in activities which I would never have considered before e.g. blogging, and becoming more politically aware.
Where people may be unheard, or where voices dissent from the majority, blogs and social media can be effective channels for acknowledgement and recognition. I was able to turn the critical gaze inwards and observe my voice, explore the areas of my identity that are not so well-known, and feel empowered as a citizen. I decided to confront stereotypes and prejudices surrounding Buddhism with my personal experience.