Social Media and Politics


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  • Up to now, we have been considering the power of social media within the contexts of marketing and advertising but now I want to consider how it is touching other industries and practices – social business models are reflective of how it is being utilised by more than just marketers and advertisers Continuing on from our discussion last week on the interaction between social media and journalism – we considered the following arguments and issues: How is news consumption changing Who can now produce and publish the news How journalistic practices and newsrooms have been influenced by social media
  • This is a nice quote as it focuses in on the important role of communication technologies within democracy – Today we will be considering how the ideals of democracy are extended by new communication technologies such as the Internet and how uses of the Internet such as social media have impacted and extended these ideals We will be looking at the role of the traditional media in democracy and the inherent problems with the role of the mass media as the fourth estate within democracy Then we will look at how social media is used by politicians, citizens and to aid the development of democracy / activism in non democratic states
  • There are so many ways to define democracy – there are many different ways of defining it but this is the most simplistic definition of the term
  • We can now go on to look at Dahl’s empirical conditions for democracy – he theorised that these were the conditions needed to constitute a democratic society
  • This is a useful visualisation of the IDEA framework for assessing whether a society is democratic or not – go through diagram
  • It is very important the citizens have access to a diverse range of political information in order to make informed political decisions – This leads us into a discussion of how communication technologies have historically been implemented to covey political information to citizens in order to enable them to make these informed decisions Historically, this has been print, radio and television but we must now consider the role that the Internet and social media play in communicating information to the citizens of democratic societies How do communication technologies help us connect with other citizens, gather and share information, influence the political process, hold officials accountable and provide a place to debate public issues and scrutinise government There is also the issue of whether the public’s level of political sophistication undermines democratic ideals – ask around class as to their understanding of politics in this country and our political system But how do we access this information required to become informed citizens – traditionally through the mass media
  • We can define the mass media as print, radio and television – discuss the political role the mass media should have in a democratic society The autonomy of the mass media is key – it must be independent from ‘the three state 'powers' of executive, legislature and judiciary’ if they are to fulfil their political role. The independence of the media from economic and political pressure is essential if they are to act in the public interest and provide a space for informed, rational debate free We will go on to examine plurality, autonomy and public sphere
  • A domain of our social life in which such a thing as public opinion can be formed….access to the public sphere is open in principle to all citizens….citizens act as a public…to deal with matters of general interest without being subject to coercion’ The independence of the media from economic and political pressure is essential if they are to act in the public interest and provide a space for informed, rational debate free from coercion. But can the mass media constitute a public sphere if it is a one way communication channel and does not allow for feedback???
  • When we examine the political role of the mass media – pluralism is key to this as it reinforces the democratic ideals of the right to information from a diverse range of sources, and the freedom of competing interest groups to express themselves
  • Is agenda setting a pragmatic process due to lack of editorial space or is it inherently a political process – defines prominence of certain issues and topics in the mind of the public – Does the media agenda set the public agenda? Cohen (1963) observed that the press ‘may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think , but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about’ Can the media ever be truly autonomous?? Do commercial, political and economic bias’ affect the agenda setting process and the news that gains prominence is often tied to the news organisations political leanings. As well as commercial imperatives such as editorial space, circulation and advertising revenuw News access and representation – tied to agenda setting but can the mass media constitute a healthy public sphere if barriers to entry are higher for certain individuals? Access is structured and hierarchal. Power can be defined as the ‘possession of controlling influence’ and for a society to be democratic the power to influence political decisions and policy must be equal to all citizens. Without access to the means of production the ability to change the salience of an issue on the public agenda is seriously reduced, as is the power to influence decisions. if the mass media are to constitute a healthy public sphere, then there must be universal access to these modes of production.
  • Now we have covered a brief overview of what constitutes a democratic society and the political role of the mass media within democratic society and the issues hindering their political role, We will now look at how the Internet and social media can be used to fulfill a similar political role that has been traditionally associated with the mass media
  • The democratising potential of the Internet rests on it’s defining features – discuss Essentially, the Internet creates an interactive public space that provides numerous cultural, social and political opportunities, without barriers of distance, time or money. This is further increased due to ease of access to broadband – found in the large majority of homes in the UK
  • The mere provision of information will not enhance democracy; it is access to the means of production and the ability to circulate ideas that creates real power, challenging the cultural hegemony of the mass media. Essentially, the Internet creates an interactive public space that provides numerous cultural, social and political opportunities, without barriers of distance, time or money. It is the interactive ability of the Internet that ‘puts all cultural acts, symbolisation in all forms, in the hands of all participants – it radically decentralises the apparatuses of cultural production’. Bimber (2003) comments that the Internet ‘has created a new way for people to carry on traditional political activities: to connect with others, to gather and share information and to attempt to influence the political process The Internet is unregulated and it can facilitate unmediated access to a broad range of information and debate; provide instant, many-to-many communications; as well as providing a distribution platform for a wide range of content (print, audio and video). No need for agenda setting – there are no editorial space issues or commercial imperatives here This distinguishes the Internet from other communication technologies –the ability to create content ‘breaks down the traditional barrier between producer and consumer, broadcaster and audience’. The political power of the mass media is further reduced as more users become producers, meaning the potential to circulate new ideas and ways of thinking is huge, further diluting the influence of media agendas on public opinion – the public need no longer be dependent on traditional news sources. The Internet has the potential to enhance ‘the diversity of the public sphere by lowering the access barrier to meaningful public speech’, by decentralising the means of production and offering ‘a meaningful opportunity to bypass existing commercial and government information and communication systems’. This enables better, more direct communication with fellow citizens in order to engage in rational debate but also more direct communications with elected representatives – democracy should be ‘continuous process of interaction between government and society with maximum involvement of people in public decision making’. The Internet therefore increases plurality in two senses; it increases internal plurality by increasing the diversity of content as considerations of a limited spectrum are removed and it also increases external plurality by increasing the diversity of sources due to the decentralisation of this technology. The anonymity afforded to users when online could potentially eliminate existing stereotypes and societal hierarchies, assisting people to ‘overcome identity boundaries and communicate more freely and openly’, giving voice to previously marginalised sectors of society as it is entirely possible for users to communicate ‘without being aware of another’s class, gender,
  • Think about how social media platforms enhance the democratic potential of democracy
  • Looking at the definition of social media – you can see how this ties in with these democratic ideals
  • The term ‘information overload’ has become synonymous with debates of the ability of increased information alone in enhancing democracy. This perspective is reductionist in the sense that it discounts human agency and assumes an interest in politics. The mere provision of increased information does not guarantee increased political sophistication; it also overlooks the need for new skills to find, organise and process this vast quantity of information, as the average person’s ability to absorb information will not increase. Much of the criticism of the Internet as a public sphere has focused on whether the nature of online discussion constitutes rational debate, if online communities are representative of the public – it is difficult to define what exactly constitutes rational debate or the pursuit of a common good but the majority of online discourse concerns the provision of opinion, not to ‘solve problems or seek consensus – no evidence of the cultivation or development of public opinion’ The fragmentation of audiences has been well documented within broadcasting and has been mirrored by the proliferation of niche broadcasting; the term ‘accelerated pluralism’ has been used to explain how the Internet ‘exaggerates the negative aspects of pluralism, whereby the public sphere fragments into many small groups pursuing their private interests’ Although anonymity may help overcome existing societal hierarchies and stereotypes; online discussion is often dominated by elites, and political divisions are similar to those in traditional politics; meaning these stereotypes and hierarchies persist even online. Anonymity can also create problems of lack of accountability, which may heighten levels of extremist discourse This is not to mention the assumptions of universal access and independence from corporate and political interests, that are inherent to utopian perspectives. Any discussion of the Internet as a public sphere is based on the assumption of universal access - if citizens are excluded from the dominant public sphere they are essentially disenfranchised and denied their citizenship rights. The Internet is a technology born in the capitalist era and there are concerns that ‘capitalist patterns of production may commodify these new technologies, transforming them into commercially orientated media that have little to do with social welfare’. The Information Society Reader, ed. by Frank Webster (London: Routledge, 2004), pg 387
  • Think about how Obama’s social media strategy focuses on the key pillars of effective use of social media – engaging, providing value and embracing the benefits of this communication channel
  • Chris Hughes, Facebook co-founder - Chris served as the Director of Online Organizing for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign So, he was lead by experts and those that embodied the changes made possible by social media – what is important is the way that Obama embraced social media and integrated it into his campaign – he saw the potential of these technologies, not just for his campaign but
  • Look at website and different ways that Obama is using social media to connect with citizens of America but also enables them to pledge their support and spread his campaign through their own channels Designed to help Obama supporters, the site supported key business processes such as: Sharing viewpoints and why voters support Obama via video, blog post, buttons… Donating and encouraging others to donate Getting out the vote; helping people to register and vote Organizing and mobilizing people for initiatives that support key processes
  • Twitter – nearly 12 million followers
  • Facebook – over 25 million fans
  • YouTube
  • YouTube
  • YouTube
  • But does this mean that
  • At the launch of the election campaign, we asked YouTube and Facebook users to submit questions for the UK's first election Digital Debate. The response was amazing - over 5000 questions submitted and more than 180,000 votes on the questions.
  • Users reminded on Facebook to vote – yet privacy issues with online poll
  • In Britain voters had to be registered by April 20. Research suggested that about 3.5 million people who were eligible to vote in England and Wales were not registered. In response, Facebook and the Electoral Commission worked together to create a new application, enabling the 23 million people using Facebook in the UK to download a personalised voter registration form. The effort increased voter registrations by thousands in a matter of days Users reminded on Facebook to vote – yet privacy issues with online poll
  • The Rate the Debate experiment -- which aims to measure public response to the various speakers and their policies -- requires Facebook users to log into the Democracy UK page, and adjust an on-screen dial to reflect how they feel about what they're seeing on TV.
  • The Rate the Debate experiment -- which aims to measure public response to the various speakers and their policies -- requires Facebook users to log into the Democracy UK page, and adjust an on-screen dial to reflect how they feel about what they're seeing on TV.
  • Digital Citizenship – if social media and online technologies are embraced by politicians, can this empower citizens to have a deeper, more interconnected understanding and engagement with politics – needs to be embraced across the system for this to work How does this contirbute to public sphere and pluralism – does this great deeper engagement with politics?
  • Evidence of discussion of candidates on Facebook
  • Communicate directly with politicians and decision makers
  • Organise political action and discuss political affairs
  • Citizen support for presidential candidate
  • Think about how media systems have changed and how this impacted the political role of the media
  • Is this model, as facilitated by wide availability and access to social media, better for democratic society?
  • You may well be familiar with the Rage Against The Machine campaign to overthrow X Factor winner – global interconnected network created by the Internet is only amplified with social media tools – essentially, makes it very simple for everyone to become a publisher
  • Now we are seeing the role that social media can play in political activism – esp in the Middle East, facilitated by mobile technologies and a reduction in cost for other digital technologies
  • The Arab Spring ( Arabic : الربيع العربي‎ ar-Rabīʻ al-ʻArabiyy ), otherwise known as the Arab Awakening , [1] is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010. To date, there have been revolutions in Tunisia [2] and Egypt ; [3] a civil war in Libya resulting in the fall of its government; [4] civil uprisings in Bahrain , [5] Syria , [6] and Yemen , the latter resulting in the resignation of the Yemeni prime minister; [7] major protests in Algeria , [8] Iraq , [9] Jordan , [10] Kuwait , [11] Morocco , [12] and Oman ; [13] and minor protests in Lebanon , [14] Mauritania , Saudi Arabia , [15] Sudan , [16] and Western Sahara . [17]
  • Eygpt, Libya, Syria and Tunisia
  • Definition of Social Media Brief description and examples of each.
  • Social Media and Politics

    1. 1. BA (Hons) Advertising Social Media & Politics
    2. 2. Social Media…. … more than just marketing
    3. 3. ‘ Democracy is a deeply communicative brand of politics – it demands communication and exchange of information and views, it demands dialogue and a public sphere in which citizens can engage in the practices which define them as citizens and the society as democratic’ Darin Barney, The Network Society, (Oxford: Polity, 2004)
    4. 4. Definition of Democracy “ Democracy in its purest or most ideal form would be a society in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives”
    5. 5. Pillars of Democracy <ul><li>Dahl’s (1971) Empirical Conditions for Democracy </li></ul><ul><li>Election of officials through free and fair elections </li></ul><ul><li>Inclusive suffrage </li></ul><ul><li>Right all citizens to run for public office </li></ul><ul><li>Freedom of expression </li></ul><ul><li>Right to information other than from official sources </li></ul><ul><li>Right to form political parties and interest groups </li></ul>Jean Grugel, Democratization – A Critical Introduction, (London: Palgrave, 2002
    6. 6. Pillars of Democracy
    7. 7. <ul><li>Information is essential to the democratic process as only an informed citizen can cast an informed vote </li></ul><ul><li>In order to make meaningful decisions, citizens of democratic societies must have: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Knowledge of societal issues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Availability of alternative options </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understanding of political system </li></ul></ul>The importance of the informed citizen
    8. 8. The political role of the mass media <ul><li>Historically the mass media have been the predominant source of political information for citizens of a democratic society </li></ul><ul><li>Ideally, the mass media should fulfil their political role by: </li></ul><ul><li>‘ disseminating the full range of political opinions, enabling the public to make political choices and enter the national life’. </li></ul><ul><li>Mark Wheeler, Politics and the Mass Media, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997) </li></ul><ul><li>The mass media political role in democratic societies is centred around: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Acting as a fourth estate and public sphere </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Acting as impartial, objective and independent brokers of information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Acting with political and economic autonomy </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. The Public Sphere The political role of the mass media is centred on it’s role as a public sphere The public sphere can be defined as: “ a discursive space in which individuals and groups congregate to discuss matters of mutual interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgment.”  
    10. 10. Media Pluralism and Democracy Pluralism can be defined as: ‘ a diversity of media owners, reflected both by the plurality of independent and autonomous media and the diversity of media contents offering different and independent voices, diverse political opinions and representations of citizens within the media’ Gillian Doyle, Media Ownership , (London: SAGE, 2002) Internal Pluralism A balanced range of political information, debate and opinion External Pluralism Provided from a wide range of independent sources – free from political and economic pressures or bias  
    11. 11. A few of the issues associated with this mass media in fulfilling their political role within a democratic society: Can the mass media truly fulfill their political role? <ul><ul><li>Agenda Setting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Political and Commercial Autonomy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Access to Means of Production </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Do these issues impact the mass media’s ability to fulfil their political role?? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Acting as a fourth estate and public sphere </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Independent from political and economic bias </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Providing a wide range of information, interpretation and opinion </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    12. 12. How has the Internet and social media changed this?
    13. 13. The democratising potential of the Internet <ul><li>There has been much discussion around the democratic potential of the Internet – these often focus on it’s defining features: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Unmediated access to wide range of information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Two way communication channel </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Distribution channel for wide variety of content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Low barriers to entry for access and production </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Global reach of a connected network </li></ul></ul>
    14. 14. Participatory Culture Participatory culture refers to a culture in which private persons (the public) do not act as consumers only, but also as contributors or producers (prosumers). The term is most often applied to the production or creation of some type of published media
    15. 15. Participatory Culture
    16. 16. The democratising potential of the Internet <ul><li>It is these defining features that enhance democratic potential of this communication channel: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Access to means of production </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability to circulate ideas and content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Difficult to control the flow of information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Removes pragmatic need for agenda setting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Breaks down barrier between producer and consumer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Diversification of public sphere </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Increased internal and external plurality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anonymity can remove social stereotypes and hierarchy </li></ul></ul>
    17. 17. And the rise of social media has further enhanced this…
    18. 18. “ The host of online technologies and platforms that allow users share resources and media content whilst communicating with their peers and connect with others” “ Social media are primarily Internet-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings.”
    19. 19. The other side of the coin…. <ul><li>There are several issues with this ‘digital utopia’: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Information Overload </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Quality of Online Discussions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fragmentation of Public Sphere </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of Accountability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dependent on Provision of Equal Access </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assumption of Independence & Autonomy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Internet Censorship </li></ul></ul>
    20. 20. How are politicians embracing social media?
    21. 21.
    22. 22. <ul><li>Obama was not considered to be a prime presidential candidate, according to </li></ul><ul><li>traditional metrics – other candidates had considerable resources </li></ul><ul><li>Used social media to increase awareness of campaign – engaging citizens to </li></ul><ul><li>take a more active and direct role in the campaign </li></ul><ul><li>Encouraged voters to support and amplify the campaign through their own </li></ul><ul><li>networks </li></ul>Obama and the 2008 Presidential Campaign
    23. 23. All with a little help from his friends…
    24. 24.
    25. 28. So how about in the 2010 UK General Election? At the time, there were 24 million UK users of Facebook…. … .And around the same amount of people voted in the 2010 election
    26. 29.
    27. 30. &quot;The dawn of the digital election this year is a transformative moment for democracy in Britain. By allowing voters to cross-examine their leaders, these digital debates will put the voters firmly in charge. This marks a decisive shift away from the constraints of top-down traditional media.” Richard Allen – Facebook’s Director of Policy
    28. 31.
    29. 33.
    30. 36. How are citizens using social media?
    31. 37. <ul><li>A digital citizen commonly refers to a person utilizing information technology information technology (IT) in order to engage in society, politics, and government participation </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>As a digital citizen, using social media you can: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Discuss social, economic and political issues with peers and online contacts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Communicate directly with politicians and decision makers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Share and publish opinions with an amplified audience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Organise protests and other forms of political activism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Create support groups for political parties </li></ul></ul>Are you a digital citizen?
    32. 42. Remember Citizen Journalism??? “ T he concept of members of the public &quot;playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information” <ul><li>Drivers behind increased prevalence of citizen journalism: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Social Media </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile Technologies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lower Barriers to Entry </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Real Time Communications </li></ul></ul>
    33. 43. Then…. <ul><li>Uni-directional </li></ul><ul><li>Top Down </li></ul><ul><li>High barriers to entry </li></ul><ul><li>Print and Linear Broadcast Journalism </li></ul>
    34. 44. Now…. <ul><li>Multi-directional and conversational </li></ul><ul><li>Top Down and Bottom Up </li></ul><ul><li>Low barriers to entry </li></ul><ul><li>Real Time </li></ul><ul><li>Citizen and Digital Journalism </li></ul><ul><li>Additional channels </li></ul><ul><li>Global Reach </li></ul>
    35. 45. How is social media being used to facilitate activism?
    36. 46. From the more trivial…
    37. 47. … to the making of history
    38. 48. … to the making of history
    39. 49. The role of social media in the Arab Spring
    40. 50. Look at how social media was used in different uprisings and protests…
    41. 51. Social Media Module on SlideShare
    42. 52. Clemi Hardie [email_address] @clemihardie