Building Civic Laboratories: Tools for Studying Youth Political Expression on Social Media

Social media have the potential to help younger generations exert voice and influence in democratic life. Yet, many young people find it socially risk or difficult to engage in politics on social media. Media and communication researchers have begun to ask: what are the barriers to youth political expression and can they be addressed? Efforts to answer these questions have often been limited by the design of dominant social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. This project attempts to advance knowledge in this area by developing and testing a mobile social media app for studying youth political expression. This app will allow researchers to experimentally manipulate social media environments in order to better understand which contexts best support youth political expression. Not only will this project allow for more sophisticated study of expressive behavior on social media, but it will also be useful to a wide variety of researchers interested in how social media shape democratic engagement.