In December 2008, with generous funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (New Facebook Applications to Engage Youth in News), NewsCloud and University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development researcher Dr. Christine Greenhow launched a study to investigate how online social network sites such as Facebook can engage youth in world events, build community, and generate real world impact.
As part of the study, we launched two news sites inside of Facebook: "Hot Dish," a Facebook application for sharing articles about the environment and climate change, was launched in March 2009 in partnership with Grist.org and included an "Action Team" feature, which inspired 16‐ to 25‐year‐old users to take actions within the Hot Dish community in return for points redeemable for prizes. A second application, "The Daily," was launched in April 2009 for the student‐run newspaper at the University of Minnesota.
Today, we are releasing the summary of findings from Dr. Greenhow and her team which resulted from the Hot Dish community. Findings for The Daily will be released later in September 2009.
Here is an excerpt, full download below:
Counter to the decline in young people’s (print‐based) reading for pleasure and traditional media consumption is a noted increase in out‐of‐school online reading and writing through online fan fiction and social network sites. Yet, according to the Pew research institute, over one third of people under 25 get no news on a daily basis. However, teens spend many hours a week online (a recent British study said 31), particularly on Facebook ‐‐ the most‐trafficked social media site in the world. Facebook has more than 250 million active members.
Can youth be persuaded to critically engage in news and conversation ‐‐ on Facebook? Can they feel a sense of community? Furthermore, can their involvement translate into real‐world actions, or will it consist solely of virtual activism? And, if we understood how young people prefer to manipulate, produce and talk through information online, would that move us closer to understanding how to develop successful media‐rich and educational environments?
Answering such questions is critical. If we hope to inform, educate and mobilize an engaged citizenry — as the vision for not only the future of news industries but also for full participation in a 21st century democracy says we should — we need to make sharing news and experiences fit easily into teens' lives and be easily tracked and observed to ensure success.
1. The design of the Hot Dish Facebook application seemed very effective at strengthening news consumption and online interaction habits.
2. Interest in Hot Dish’s focal topic increased, especially among low users. Anecdotal evidence also suggested growth in environmental knowledge, another top goal.
3. The Hot Dish Action Team competition seemed EXTREMELY effective at creating a highly engaged segment of active participants online and especially offline activism.
4. The design of Hot Dish provided avenues of participation that facilitated various engagement levels for different groups of users.
5. The topical focus of Hot Dish, and its emphasis on linkages between people within a social network, motivated participants to express ideas and interact with others in ways different from traditional online news sites.
6. The Hot Dish social media site within Facebook provided the occasion and impetus for young people’s reading and writing practices. For educators and others who care about promoting the literacy and public engagement of youth today, results suggest there may be advantages to locating niche media‐sharing communities within existing online social networks.
For complete details, please download Summary of Findings for Hot Dish Research (pdf)
Note: Some links in the PDF may not appear clickable. Please check back here for an updated version soon.