An Analysis of Italian Politicians Facebook Pages

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An Analysis of Italian Politicians Facebook Pages

  1. 1. At the boundaries of public sphere:   content analysis of Italian poli6cians  most popular Facebook pages Fabio [.] Giglie.o [@uniurb.it] Mario [.] Orefice [@uniurb.it] University of Urbino, Italy 
  2. 2. Research Ques<on… Can Web 2.0 applications and, in particular, Facebook represent a breeding ground forthe creation of a relationship between citizensand politicians able to give back meaning and value to traditional concept of representative democracy? 
  3. 3. Theore<cal background 1/2 Debacle of governments and political action in Western countriesseems to emerge as a result of a general mistrust in politicalinstitutions including political parties.-  gradual loss of representative and democratic mission;-  from social agencies of mediation between interests of civilsociety and governmental institutions to lobbies fighting forpositions of responsibility and political/economical prestige;- establishment of precise equivalence between dynamics ofmembership and processes of co-optation imposed from above;- disappearance of traditional forms of identification (values,symbols) and efficient (structures, policies) representation;- from party to leader  (Pizzorno 1983, Della Porta 1996) 
  4. 4. Theore<cal background 2/2 Dutiful Citizenship (D.C)•  obligation to participate in government centered activities;•  voting is the core democratic act;•  information by following mass media;•  joins civil society organizations and/or expresses interests through partiesSelf-Actualizing Citizenship (S.A.C)•  less sense of government obligation - higher sense of individual goals;•  voting is less meaningful than other, more personally defined acts such as consumerism, community volunteering, or transnational activism;•  mistrust of media and politicians is reinforced by negative mass media environment;•  favors loose networks of community action often established or sustained through friendships and peer relations and maintained by interactive information technologies  (Bennett 2008, Dahlgren 2006) 
  5. 5. Methodology - Among Facebook pages of Italian politicians, we’ve selected top ten with the highestnumber of likes;-  Underlying assumption is based on positive correlation between number of likes and online/off line popularity;-  We chose top ten politicians: 1) to have accurate knowledge about them in order to connect analyzed items to thesocio- political off line environment, 2) it was believed to be more likely to find a wide range of relevant contents;-  Coding and Analysis made with Discovertext;- Data Time frame from 09/26/2011 to 06/25/2011-  Each dataset was coded according to our coding scheme based on four independent macro-variables (support, action, organization, representation) articulated in 39 coding keys.
  6. 6. Methodology: bugs & limits 1/2 Politicians fan pages have been taken into account when users where suposed to like the pages in order to comment on them. This seems to have produced, at least, three limitations:-  High disproportion between number of active users and average of likes;-  inability to investigate individual motivations that prompted users to join politician’s fan page, except, when they are directly expressed;- difficulties in finding and highlight precise correspondences between citizens, voters and fans 
  7. 7. Methodology: bugs & limits 2/2 If, on one hand, D.T is an effective tool to encode on line contents, on the other hand, it seems to show few limitations. Among them:-  discontinuities in loading contents within datasets. This problem emerges with greater clarity with time spans referred to past-  does not allow to define taxonomies. This creates confusion in identification of appropriate keys and loss in terms of coding time-  limitations in exporting large datasets-  frequent maintenance periods which disable the use of some features 
  8. 8. Name/Surname Political role Likes Loaded Encoded Items ItemsGiuliano Pisapia Opposition 115.5586 1906 226 (11,86%) Matteo Renzi Opposition 77.119 5774 222 (4,2%)Nichi Vendola Opposition 519.247 3425 252 (7,42%) Vincenzo De Opposition 80.295 2374 251 (10,57%) Luca Antonio Di Opposition 252.306 9269 252 (2,8%) Pietro Antonio De Opposition 277.434 14.982 255 (0,9%) Magistris Rita Levi Opposition 167.416 168 168 (100%) Montalcini Name/Surname Political role Likes Loaded Encoded Items ItemsSilvio Berlusconi Government 320.900 225 225 (100%) Renato Brunetta Government 77,882 43 43 (100%) Maria Stella Government 64.928 5403 210 (4,1%) Gelmini Pol. Role Tot. Items Cod. Items Government 5720 478 (8,4%) Opposition 22920 1626 (7,1%)
  9. 9. Main findings: (Call to) Ac<on -  Government politicians call to action from their formal role: institutional call to action that refers often to political (national or international) actors.-  Within their pages there are no references to non-institutional actors (NGO, third sector, etc)-  The main communicative strategy is broadcasting-type (one to many)-  Opposition politicians may use an informal communication style-  Dialogical relationship among the politicians and their wider electoral base (including non political actors like NGOs)-  More symmetrical communication strategy with their supporters (peer relationship)
  10. 10. “After Council of Ministers, I’m going to Parliament in order to express my position on the arrest’s request ordered for Mr. Milanese” (Silvio Berlusconi’s wall, admin., n. 6/212 coded items) “Council of Ministers shall be convened for September 22, at 9 am. Among the agenda items: preliminary examination of two decrees on investment in public works and monitoring procedures on implementation of employment” (Silvio Berlusconi’s wall, admin., n. 9/212 coded items)“A weekend full of events is coming to Florence…Run for Life (there’s still vacancies, hurry up!), table tennis tournaments, Festival of Green Energy, electric cars available……a rare opportunity to clean up the town. And the opening of Lungarno Santa Rosa’s public garden. A personal promises to neighborhood’s mothers is the construction of a playground suitable for children. Because promises must be kept: this is the profound difference from usual politics…” (Mayor of Florence - Matteo Renzi’s wall, admin., n. 162/222 coded items) “Finally I believe that a site in which develop a concrete alternative to the government in charge is possible only if we listen to this square and the hundred squares of students of past days. If we are not able to keep in touch with them, answer is simple: do not exist a site for innovation” (Leader of Left Party - Nichi Vendola’s wall, admin., n. 240/252 coded items)
  11. 11. Main findings: (private) poli<cal -  In governmental politicians pages there are many references to private life rose by users.-  These seem to be part of a wider protest’s repertoire: -  Orthodox verbal aggressions, no rational arguments, against politicians as individuals -  General negative judgments against the entire political class (anti-politics) -  Claiming aimed at claiming specific rights for users/groups-  In the opposition ones private life seems to be used as part of communication strategy in order to: -  Set up a relationship with non political actors; -  Depict the politician as a honest citizen; -  Depict the politician as “one of us”;-  This kind of communication try to realize what has been defined as Productive Protest (Melucci 1984)
  12. 12. “You’re a complete disaster…..resign and leave your job to someone more intelligent!!!” (Maria Stella Gelmini’s wall, fan, n. 200/210 coded items) “Research project which has led to discovery of faster than light neutrinos is not Italian, it comes from abroad…..if you want to be a decent minister you need to study more…..Italian government have cut off all funds for research….while your boss is interested only in prostitutes and parties!!!….You’re the shame of our country!!!!” (Maria Stella Gelmini’s wall, fan, n.177/210 coded items) “Opposition should resign because the government will never give up!!!!….in this way, president Napolitano will be forced to dismiss both the Houses of Parliament!!!….do it if you care about Italy and Italians…..show people that you are not there just for the seat!!!!” (Antonio Di Pietro’s wall, fan, n. 237/252 coded teims)“About New Traffic Plan: I don’t like it cause some measures lead to isolation of city centre. I think there’s a lot of design errors….public transportation should be enhanced and completed. Even with night rides, inside and outside the city, perhaps taking advantage of European funding for electric shuttles. In addition, should be created large and affordable parking areas” (Luigi De Magistris’s wall, fan, n. 137/255 coded items)
  13. 13. Main findings: seNng the agenda -  In governmental politicians seem to be actualized an agenda imposed from above: low level of interaction, high level of internal links (linking to official sources), low level of discussions both vertical (between politician and their supporters) and horizontal (among supporters)-  In opposition politicians agenda seems to emerge from the interaction with online users: high level of status updates; high level of external links, many discussions both vertical and horizontal
  14. 14. “Hi Antonio, I’m from Rome and I’m 32. You’re the only politician I trust. In this country, like Mafia knows very well, any person who attempts to change this corrupted system or wrong traditions always becomes target of offences and insinuations that may obscure his credibility and his proposals for change….the question is: what do you think about it? ….you can reply me via mail or here…” (Antonio Di Pietro’s wall, fan, n. 235/252 coded items) “Dear new major, if I was you, I would think to reduce public expenses rather than to increasing them. First of all, beginning with a reduction of costs for local government and/or diminishing contributions for those who don’t need….or requiring the payment of taxes for those who usually does not pay them!!…” (Giuliano Pisapia’s wall, fan, n. 199/226 coded items)
  15. 15. Conclusions 1/2 •  Government’s politicians tend to manage their presence on Facebook in order to reproduce and preserve the status quo acquired off line•  Develop low volume of (in)direct interactions•  Often structured according to a mainstream, informational, instrumental communicative paradigm•  It is almost totally lacking the will to establish communicative relationships with fans. This explains, at least, the occurrence of violent/negative behaviors aimed at discrediting the image of politician
  16. 16. Conclusions 2/2 •  Political opposition tend more often to customize platform’s tools and features, trying to re-think them in order to establish an authentic relationship with fans and share/revise their in progress policy proposals•  Facebook, therefore, is considered more as a laboratory for experimenting new languages rather than a mere tool/informational gate•  This seems to result in prevalence of a positive dialectic geared towards building a narrative based on shared identity•  Some of these attitudes can find their raison detre both in low age of opposition’s members (all belonging to the center-left) and in greater willingness to accept cultural innovation as starting point to construct new paradigms (political, social, communicative)•  Seems hard to go beyond a merely quantitative meaning of digital popularity 
  17. 17. Some research proposals   for the future… •  Get on with coding and try to expand it both to other fan pages and online environments (Twitter, Google plus, official websites, blogs);•  Achieve a definition able to understand and recognize differences among political, anti political and non political actions on line•  Re-think macro-nodes to develop a more comprehensive analytical grid•  Focus on to the widespread expression of anti-political attitudes within official politicians facebook pages•  Identify efficient and effective tools to carry on content analysis of on line conversations 
  18. 18. Thanks for your a.en<on! Mario OreficePhD candidatemario.orefice@uniurb.it

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