The aim of this paper is to develop a theory on the role of the Internet and mobile communications (what I understand as “alternative communication networks”) in the construction of political power through the process of framing.
But where does this battle for the construction of meaning takes places? I propose that part of this battle takes place in the media sphere. In fact, those messages, leaders and organizations that have no media presence don’t exists for the public (Castells, 2009, 261).
Because framing has the ability to alter the public’s perception, politicians and other social actors engage in battles to determine how issues are framed
One of the most influential models that explain this process is Entmant’s cascading activation model. This model integrates the processes of agenda setting, framing and priming in a single system composed of several levels of actors arranged in a hierarchical order. Entman shows that the initial point to spread and activate the interpretative frames is the Government officials. This frame is filtered to the rest of elites and then to the media, who ultimately choose the initial frames reaching to the public. However, it is important to note that these initial frames feed back to the top level (other elites) and that each level can respond by accepting or challenging the official frame. For example, if other elite challenge the official frame, media has more opportunities to deviate from the Government line. … Also, if an idea is widely and intensely held by large swaths of the public, it can affect media frames and therefore, it can affect leaders’ calculations and actions.
But this ability of the public to feed back to the media and, therefore, influence elites has been importantly expanded by the advent of Internet and mobile communications. Virtual networks are important because they can influence the ability of masses to communicate with each other (mass self-communication) transforming individual frames of reference into collective interpretative frames.
In this sense, a revised framing model in foreign policy will be a one that alternative communication networks comprise the sixth level in the cascading network activation. After the frames established by the media, the public would have the opportunity to use social networks to to produce its (our) own messages that potentially challenge official frames that may change power relationships in the communication sphere.
To support this hypothesis I analyze the 11-M terror attacks in Madrid. As you may remember, AlQaeda perpetrated those attacks three days before Spain's general elections.
My content analysis of the media frames reveals that during the first two days after the attacks the dominant frame was the ETA hypothesis. It wasn’t until the 13 th of March that the Islamic attribution started to gain presence in media. Exactly the same happened with frames of the authorship by other elite.
This picture is very different from what we get in Roig and López’s (2005) analysis of social networks. In this analysis we can observe that the Islamic attribution was the dominant frame in virtual networks from the very first hours following the attacks.
Alternative communication networks, framing and the construction of political power
“ Alternative communication networks, framing and he construction of political power” Mayra Mart ínez Avidad. PhD Candidate University Complutense of Madrid.
Theoretical framework Power Conceptualization of power as a dynamic constructi on of meaning (Foucault, 1970) & (Gramsci,1971) Ability of shaping the minds of people around specific frameworks Counter-Power Fighting to change the meanings that reflect dominant interest and replaces them with alternative discourses
Media discourse is part of the process which people construct meaning Two key process by which media actively set the frames of reference that audience use to interpret public events: <ul><li>Agenda setting: media force attention to certain issues by giving special prominence and space to certain issues </li></ul><ul><li>Framing: media influence how we think about the issues by giving a particular view on specific issues </li></ul>
Entmant’s Cascading Network Activation (2004) Administration Other Elites Media News Frames Public
Hypothesis The ability of the public to feed back to the media frames and, therefore, to influence political elites has been expanded by the advent of the Internet and mobile communications Virtual Networks Mass self-communication (Castells, 2009) Individual frames Collective frames
The public have now the opportunity to use social networks to produce its own messages that potentially challenge official frames that may change power relations in the media sphere Revised model on Framing in International Issues Administration Other Elites Media News Frames Public Alternative Networks
Government officials framed the attacks as ETA was responsible for them 11-M 12-M The government lost its control over ETA authorship frame 13-M The conservative ruling party lost the general elections 14-M Timeline
Framing of the authorship in Spanish Press Content Analysis Results Framing of the authorship by Other Elites (media coverage)
Framing of the Authorship in Alternative Communication Networks Source: Ro ig & López (2005)
Internet and text messaging offered the public, not just the virtual space to share and unify their own frames and interpretations, but the tool to organize and execute peaceful protest in the physical world, which ultimately made possible the counter-frame to have an impact in the media sphere. How did this interpretation influence media frames?
General Conclusions <ul><li>The way political elite -given their privileged access to media- had been able to impose their own definitions of reality in the media sphere, is now countered by the new public’s ability to gain media attention around their own messages and interpretations. </li></ul><ul><li>Alternative communication networks are counter-power tools in people’s hands used to construct contra-frames which are able to defeat those frames that reflect the interest of the ruling class. </li></ul>