Fostering Civic Engagement by Building a Virtual City



This article focuses on the design and use of networked technologies to create learning environments to foster the civic engagement of youth. First, we briefly describe the Zora three-dimensional multiuser environment that engages children in the design of a graphical virtual city and its social organization. Anecdotal data are then used to help define different aspects of civic engagement, namely civic actions and civic discourse. Finally, we present descriptive results from a pilot study of young people using Zora in the context of a multicultural summer camp for youth. During this experience, children developed a virtual community that became a safe space for experimenting with decision-making, self-organization, and civic conversations, as well as for testing democratic values, behaviors, and attitudes. Using Zora as a case study, this article shows the potential of networked technologies to facilitate different aspects of young people’s civic development.