International Journal of Electronic Governance (5 papers in press)
- Joining the online video conversation? Discourse and practices of European political institutions and politicians on YouTube
by Patricia Dias da Silva
Abstract: To mimic the online practices of citizens has been declared an imperative to improve communication and extend participation. This article seeks to contribute to the understanding of how European discourses praising online video as a communication tool have been translated into actual practices by politicians, governments and organisations. By contrasting official documents with YouTube activity, it is argued that new opportunities for European political communication are far from being fully embraced on YouTube, much akin the early years of websites. The main choice has been to use YouTube channels fundamentally for distribution and archive purposes, thus neglecting its social media features. The disabling of comments by many heads of state and prime ministers and, in 2010, the European Commission indicates such an attitude. The few attempts made to foster citizen engagement, in particular during elections, have had limited success given low participation numbers and lack of argument exchange.
Keywords: conversation; online video; YouTube; European Commission; European Union; online participation; e-democracy; EUTube; social media; communication strategy; public policies; European action plans; information society; citizen engagement; online comments.
Special Issue on: "DEL symposium Online Political Participation and Its Critics"
- Political Carnivalism and an Emerging Public Space: Examination of a New Participatory Practice on Twitter
by Chang Sup Park
Abstract: Carnivals are not only social gatherings for celebration but also arenas where people can resist dominant power with free expression of non-legitimate voices. The 2011 Seoul mayoral election has shown how political carnivalism manifests itself. South Korean Twitterians during the election came to create a new public space, where unfettered information and opinions were exchanged among voters and at the same time play and resistance were pursued simultaneously. During the campaign, Twitter was rife with carnivalistic postings that included humor, satire, and parody, targeting the establishment. Twitter users also satirized mainstream media for neglecting the role of leading citizens in the democratic process. Twitter was not only a place of play, but also a place to ridicule the absurdities of politicians. Political carnivalism portends a new, evolutionary form of political engagement in the social media age and helps us understand the increasing complexity of citizens political attitudes and viewpoints. The current study contributes to the literature by documenting how a leading social media, Twitter, can be effectively transformed into a democratic pubic space by allowing citizens to engage in public affairs in carnivalistic ways.
Keywords: political carnivalism; Twitter; public sphere; political participation; election
- The #OCCUPY Network on Twitter and the Challenges to Social Movements Theory and Research
by Davide Beraldo, Juan Galan-Paez
Abstract: This work sketches out an exploration on some challenges that digital environments pose to social movements studies. While transformations in the technology available for communication among movement networks quite obviously reconfigure their organizational patterns, the current use of the notion of collective identity, less obviously, is also called into question. Drawing on a dataset of tweets collected during the early stage of the worldwide Occupy protest wave, the outcomes of different possibilities of analysis are presented. The discussion of the results challenges various aspects of recent trends in Social Movements Theory, including the persistent distinction between organizational and identitary elements. A socio-semiotic observation is then acknowledged: to a certain extent, in contemporary protests, signifiers have acquired distinctive importance with respect to signifieds, in mediating the assemblage of contentious networks. The notion of social movement brand is consequently suggested as fitting these phenomenon better than the classical one of collective identity.
Keywords: Occupy; networks; Twitter; social movements; digital media; collective identity; floating signifiers; brands; digital methods; digital sociology; Actor-Network Theory; socio-semiotic; spatial networks; semantic networks.
- National and state-level politics on social media: Twitter, Australian political discussions, and the online commentariat
by Tim Highfield
Abstract: This paper examines the adoption of Twitter as a space for long-term discussions around Australian politics, at national and state levels. Although Twitter as a medium for public debate encompasses many different functions, users, and themes, this study tracks the use of two specific Australian hashtags during 2012: #auspol, denoting national political topics, and #wapol, which provides a case study of state politics (representing Western Australia). This period includes leadership challenges, cabinet reshuffles, debates around legislation, and day-to-day aspects of national and state politics. The long-term data collection provides the opportunity to examine how the Twitter audience responds to Australian politics: which themes attract the most attention, which events stimulate heightened tweeting activity, and which accounts act as focal points for these discussions. In doing so, the paper highlights differences in the coverage of state and national politics. For #auspol, a small number of accounts are responsible for the majority of tweets containing this hashtag, with politicians invoked by user name but not directly contributing to the discussion. In contrast, the Western Australia case contains a much lower level of tweeting. This example also demonstrates that, in addition to citizen accounts, traditional participants within political debate, such as politicians and journalists, are among the more active contributors to the state-oriented discussion on Twitter.
Keywords: social media; politics; Twitter; Australia; public debate; commentariat; hashtags; Western Australia; political commentary; everyday politics
- The Cultural Meanings of Israeli Tokbek (Talk-Back Online Commenting) and their Relevance to the Online Democratic Public Sphere
by Gonen Dori-Hacohen, Nimrod Shavit
Abstract: Israeli journalistic websites have initiated a feature that became fairly universal: a comments section at the end of each article that allows readers to respond to the article and to each other. This feature is natively captured by the meta-communicative term tokbek, derived from the English phrase talk-back. Although Israeli journalists and Internet users originally viewed tokbek as having the potential to promote new modes of civil participation, it soon became associated with pejorative cultural meanings that indicated its failure to do so. Drawing on the Ethnography of Communication, we provide an interpretative framework for an analysis of this failure. The main communicative function of tokbek is the construction of the commenters political identities, mainly as leftists and rightists. This oppositional construction takes the antagonistic form of a bashing ritual that communicates radical pessimism about the very possibility of political debate. Our findings suggest that sharing a virtual space does not necessarily facilitate democratic deliberation and that democratic culture should be explicitly addressed when discussing technological advancements.
Keywords: Online public participation; Online public sphere; Online comments; Ethnography of communication; Democratic culture; Cultural terms for talk; Kasah