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Imagi(ni)ng Democracy: European youth becoming citizens by visual participation

Project description

A spotlight on European youth and their visual forms of political participation

The youth of today are growing up in a visual world. Their understanding of political action is more likely to be based on repertories of visual participation. The EU-funded ImagiDem will investigate and conceptualise visual participation of young European citizens, online and offline, to formulate a model of democratic practises of the 2020s. The project will look at images and memes posted on social media and follow young people’s visual ways of participation as part of their everyday actions. The project will draw upon visual ethnography with computational big data mining and analysis.


The current political and institutional crises render the future of European democracy uncertain. To gain deeper insights into what the current discontent may lead to, and how to address it for the good of an equal and inclusive democracy, we have to study future political actors, today’s young citizens, and examine what are the means of political action prevalent to them. The public sphere of today’s youth is increasingly dominated by visual content, and therefore the visual dimension of political participation is to be a key concern in research thereof. The current youth’s understanding of political action – building arguments, mobilizing, and participating – is likely to become firmly anchored in repertoires of visual participation. ImagiDem will explore, analyze, and conceptualize visual participation of young European citizens in order to formulate a model of democratic practices in the 2020s.
ImagiDem addresses visual political participation and democratic practices among young citizens in the European context using a radical triple-strategy: it combines visual ethnography with computational big data minining and analysis, and deploys this combination to a comparative research setting. The project design includes four countries of comparison – Finland, France, Germany, and Portugal – with both an ethnographic and a computational subproject realized in each of them. Both methodological approaches – comparative online ethnography, and computational, machine learning based analysis of large sets of social media image data – are risky and hitherto scarcely explored.
The theoretical challenge ImagiDem takes is to develop pragmatist theorizing of visual justification and engagements on the one hand, and visual cultural toolkits and frames, on the other. With this methodologico-theoretical toolkit, ImagiDem provides overarching analysis of the future of European democracy.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 352 007,75
00014 Helsingin Yliopisto

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Manner-Suomi Helsinki-Uusimaa Helsinki-Uusimaa
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 352 007,75

Beneficiaries (2)