Belando Montoro, M. (2022). (Ed.). Participación cívica en un mundo digital [Civic participation in a digital world]. (Tania García Bermejo)

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Belando Montoro, M. (2022). (Ed.).
Participación cívica en un mundo digital [Civic participation in a digital world].
Dykinson. 225 pp.


It is not often that we find a work with an outlook as original as the one in this book coordinated by María Belando Montoro. Its innovation is in the combination of two topics that are as current as they are rarely tackled: civic participation and virtual environments. Its relevance is also demonstrated by social facts that are the object of academic research and reports by public and private institutions and organisations that result in national and international normative frameworks. It is worth noting the Actualización del Marco de Referencia de la Competencia Digital ,

Docente [Update of the Digital Competence in Education Reference Framework] from May 2022, which, based on its European counterpart DigCompEdu from 2017, develops the valuable work of educators in the current socio-technological setting, where we find the exercise of digital citizenship. Accordingly, the approach of Belando and the team of researchers who participate in this book merits close attention, not just because of its timeliness, but also for another series of aspects that it is important to underline here. ,

The book has 10 chapters, most of them by international groups of authors, primarily scholars from Spain and Ibero-American countries, such as Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, something that is important, as this international nature is an unavoidable consequence of technological change, as the civic sphere can no longer be understood solely through geographical proximity, but instead requires a broader context. In addition to this, as is to be expected, there is a wide variety of institutions, with participants from the Universidad Complutense, the Universidad de Buenos Aires, the Universidad de Barcelona, the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, the Rede Beija-flor de Pequenas Bibliotecas Vivas de Santo André, the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and the Universidade de São Paulo. ,

A variety of approaches to the object of study are used, ranging from theoretical works that analyse and review key concepts relating to the issues considered, qualitative research that considers specific situa tions in depth including highly demanding, emerging ones such as that caused by the Covid-19 pandemic or paradigmatic case studies that enable cross-border and intercultural dialogues, and analyses of national and international situations that draw relevant conclusions for educational policy and practice based on quantitative and comparative methodologies. ,

The first chapter, written by the editor of the book herself along with Aranzazu Carrasco and María Naranjo, focusses on the challenge of social inclusion through ICT. Starting with an up-to-date literature review, they identify four dimensions from which to approach this phenomenon. These take into account: school performance itself through processes of progressive acquisition of autonomy in learning; diversification of learning times and spaces, that help to adapt and personalise education throughout life; civic participation, which experiences an amplification of its potential for organisation, presence, and assertion; and university participation, which as a classical social space for youth mobilisation intuits a transformation which, nevertheless, requires vigilance of its capacity for commitment and transformation. ,

In the second chapter, Pedro Núñez, Rafael Blanco, Pablo Vommaro, and Melina Vázquez focus on the use of digital social networks by secondary school students in the city of Buenos Aires. They consider two moments separated by the pandemic, the impact of which far from being of little importance, has affected the very core of civic participation in digital settings and has accelerated and modulated already initiated digital processes in particular. Through the results of three mixed methods studies they consider essential aspects: place and the appropriation by young people of public, private, and technologically hybrid spaces in their participation and in their reconfiguration by the pandemic; technologically mediated intergenerational relations and their political representation; and dissidence and as element of socialisation in an urban setting. ,

The next chapter, by Flávio Morgado, Jéssica Garcia Da Cruz Morais, Anna Carolina Ribeiro De Campos, Cibele Maria Silva De Lima, Pâmela Carolina Garson Sacco, and Marilena Nakano, considers processes of transition to adult life. Their contribution is not without a certain air of rebelliousness as it positions literature and the library, the spaces par excellence of the book and reading, as essential spaces for dialogue, reflection, questioning, and maturation in technological society. After offering a snapshot of the situation in Brazil, they present the results of an experiment carried out in the Escrevivências (Writing–Experiences) reading club where a group of young people participate whose activity has motivated complex processes of self-recognition and encounter, acquisition of new democratic identities, initiatives for transforming the school and the city, examining issues in greater depth, and considering art as an end and as a means of introspection and social criticism. ,

Fernando de Jesús Domínguez Pozos and Jesús García Reyes take us to Mexico, more specifically the secondary and higher education of this country, to consider its current and not infrequent problems, which are strongly shaped by impoverished social settings with school leaving being one of the most persistent and pressing challenges facing Mexico’s educational system. In this context, virtual spaces offer a new hope, although their early promise, filled with optimism, seems to have faded rapidly like fireworks, as they have not been accompanied by policies to consolidate the integration of technology in schools that lack means, and they have also not been accompanied by appropriate didactic focuses, medium- and long-term programmes, consideration of the specific problems of rural areas, and so on. ,

Ferran Crespo i Torres, Marta Beatriz Esteban Tortajada, Miquel Martínez Martín, Elena Noguera Pigem, and Ana María Novella Cámara are the authors of the fifth chapter, which considers the exercise of citizenship in childhood and adolescence, when the digital encapsulates the paradox of the formative requirement to keep up with the times, and impedes personal and social development in various ways. As they state, the existence of an us that is weakened by the impact of technologically mediated individualism also undermines the perception of the public, and so calls for an education in global perspective that promotes planetary citizenship. To do so, a series of transferable skills are needed that comprise critical comprehension of reality, dialogue and deliberation, innovation and entrepreneurship, responsible commitment to communal, self-or- ganisation and teamwork, reflection on one’s own participation, and the use of civic technology. ,

Judith Pérez-Castro, Alejandro Márquez Jiménez, and María Guadalupe Pérez Aguilar consider the wide-ranging Mexican baccalaureate and the effects of the pandemic on the schooling of young people, spotlighting its significant deficiencies and some of its most notable advances. High dropout rates, low levels of learning, limited teacher professionalisation with limited training and poor job insecurity among other aspects are difficulties that add to the new complications of the pandemic, affecting the most vulnerable populations and it is to be expected that they will leave a deep mark on the society of this country, where technology has not been sufficient to mitigate unequal access to education. ,

More specifically, Sara Martin Xavier, Elmir Almeida, and Felipe de Souza Tarábola continue with their outlook on secondary education and processes of participation from secondary schools. In a research project based on sociodemographic questionnaires and group interviews with young people from working-class settings, they find that motivations for participation include the rational need to highlight unjust social inequalities and the lack of educational resources, as well as a sense of protagonism fed by the experience of autonomy through action and a certain symbolic restitution in political action articulated in social recognition by peers. In this participation, the school is a space fed by the wealth of interactions, shared with other social and technological spaces that are ever more present in the exercise of citizenship by new generations in Brazil. ,

Alejandro Cozachcow and Mariano Chervin take a more political perspective in their work, where they study four secondary schools of different types in Buenos Aires through focus groups. Gender and sexual inequalities are the main focus of the discussions with young people, stirred by a series of events that occurred in the recent political context of Argentina and whose demands young people have taken to schools. Protests, assemblies, occupation of buildings, and solidarity initiatives are some of the principal channels of youth participation analysed, which, through it, shape a distinctive and singular us. ,

Chapter nine is concerned with the city of Barcelona and its initiatives relating to children’s and youth participation, and it is written jointly by people from the city council and researchers from the Universidad de Barcelona, enabling a very fruitful and instructive collaboration regarding two settings that call for greater interaction. So, Isabel Moreno Gómez, Pilar Lleonart Forradellas, Marta Carranza Gil-Dolz, Marta Beatriz Esteban Tortajada, and Ana María Novella Cámara present the “BAOBAB”, “Protegemos las Escuelas” (Let’s Protect Schools), “Transformamos los Patios Escolares” (Transforming School Playgrounds), “Proceso participativo de la ciudadanía adolescente” (Participatory Process of Adolescent Citizenship) and “Consejo Educativo Municipal de Barcelona” (Municipal Educational Council of Barcelona) initiatives, which are guided by the recognition of children as political subjects who are capable of contributing to the communal, whose contribution not only transforms them, but also the plural context in which it occurs and which conceives the municipality as a privileged community for inclusive participation. ,

Finally, the book ends with an enlightening concluding chapter, which uses the metaphorical figure of the sextant to identify transversal lines that link the previous chapters, where it is possible to read beyond the particular details and obtain a global and integrated vision. In this sense, Juan Luis Fuentes identifies three pillars to consider: a) the digital divide that not only remains, but is progressively exacerbated, reproducing inequalities; b) the complementarity of the physical and digital spaces in civic participation, that gives rise to ever more hybrid and transmedia interactions, and, in turn, demands new capacities; and c) the diversity of motivations for participation, deriving directly from the macro political context and from the cultural and identity microenvironment of youth. ,,

Tania García Bermejo ■ ,,,

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