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For a substantial amount of time, traditional broadcast media such as print media, television and radio have sufficiently delivered political news and information to Australians in a one-to-one form of communication. However, the last decade has seen the integration of online innovations with old political methods, contemporising forms of political discussion in the media. This convergence of old and new media has endorsed a new relationship between democratic citizens and politics – creating a participatory culture wherein discussion, accessibility and interaction are more easily facilitated.
“Participatory politics enable youth to bypass…gatekeepers, mobilise informal networks and share what they think or want to do with a sizeable audience.” (Cohen & Kahne 2012, pp.4)
Participatory politics (Cohen & Kahne 2012) cultivate a more actively engaged democratic society for many different reasons. Firstly, social media allows the traditional gatekeepers of old media to be bypassed. Not so long ago, if one wanted to write a letter to an editor in order to express his/her opinion, it had to be done through a rigorous process which took the time and effort of posting a letter and waiting patiently for a long period before receiving a response or being published. However, one can now blog their opinions and attract the attention of editors and publications through a simple advertised hashtag on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Secondly, one can access a larger audience with less effort. From the comfort of their homes, individuals’ voices can be heard loudly thanks to the benefits of sharing and participation. As it is relatively simple to share or retweet posts that publicise a strong message, people can collectively maximise the distribution and reach of social media posts that are agreeable. These functions appeal to youth specifically who have been born into the digital age. Social media essentially acts as a catalyst and enabler of contemporary democratic processes that older political functions can fail to action with a younger audience. It is important to note here that the convergence of social media and traditional media does not attempt to make redundant the many beneficial aspects of traditional political broadcasts. Social media integration rather serves to appeal to a younger demographic who tend to get left behind in a democracy which can be reliant upon formal avenues of political engagement.
“For some young people, engagement in participatory politics may be driven by dissatisfaction and alienation from traditional political institutions…” (Cohen & Kahne 2012, pp.6).
In contrast to ideas that old and new media clash rather than converge, studies have shown that 49% of young people source their news from both traditional media and new media outlets alike (Cohen & Kahne 2012). However, only 4% and 28% of young people get news through a participatory source and a traditional source respectively (Cohen & Kahne 2012). This shows that youth engagement in matters of news are maximised substantially when both new and old media are used in conjunction with each other.
From these statistics, one can deduce that new media simply supplements than supplanting traditional media where youth is concerned. A younger demographic of Australians can become politically engaged more efficiently through the use of convergent media.