The interested bystander, in context

Diane Gavarkavich

26 Apr 2017, 4 p.m.
Room 9

In partnership with Google and the Knight Foundation, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith University began a pilot project furthering previous Google research around the “interested bystander.”

As that study defined, the interested bystander is an individual, in a modern and Western democratic context, who is civically aware, but not civically active. He or she knows what civic challenges exist, and would like to complain/act/improve the situation, but has not yet found the motivation or drive to do something about those challenges.

To better understand interested bystanders in context, a mixed methods research study began in Charlotte, North Carolina in September 2016. Through a series of surveys, interviews, focus groups, a mobile diary study, social media review, and community feedback, we seek to better understand the behaviours and motivations behind civic engagement in interested bystanders, how those behaviours/motivations are mediated by their information ecosystems, social influences, and the local issue landscape, and how online and offline civic behaviors interact.

This is a historic time in the American South, particularly for Charlotte, North Carolina. On the local-level, a police shooting in September led to protests, further exacerbating the city’s continued struggle with issues of poor economic mobility and of segregation.

The state has seen highly controversial legislation, federally challenged gerrymandering, and a contentious transition of power in the governorship. All the while, Charlotteans are contending with unprecedented national and international upheavals.

Though the research does not end until August, this session shares the partnership, breadth of methods, and process of placing such a unique time of history in context. Online civic behaviors and the role of tech in informing the civic behaviors, motivations, influences, and issue landscape of interested bystanders are highlighted.