POLITICAL COMMUNICATION – TRIMESTER 2, 2015
Is traditional media dead? A study of the implications and limitations of new media on political communication and political participation.
Although new media has had a profound impact on political communication and political participation, it is not without limitations. Those involved in political communication should use new and social media not to replace traditional media, but to compliment it. Rather than seeing new media as a threat to traditional media, those involved in political communication should engage in both to produce the greatest effect.
In this paper Chen and Vromen explore the democratic implications of social media. The authors describe how social media remediate and recreate user and audience communities around new and existing media (Chen &Vromen 2012, page 1). The paper is useful to my research because it discusses the potential for social media use to increase political engagement. The main limitation of the article is that Chen and Vromen focus on younger Australians although they find that while social media use is strongly associated with younger people, the political users of social media are a more age-diverse group than commonly expected (Chen &Vromen 2012, page7).
Former Premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh, recently spoke about the potential of new and social media to enhance democracy;
I think there is a growing capability within our democracy because of technology and social media for people to find out more information, to communicate and connect with people who think like them and for that to become – to get a momentum to it. That was just not possible even five or 10 years ago. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2015)
The article discusses how Kevin Rudd’s shaving cut “selfie” was retweeted hundreds of times, broadcast on the nightly television news, mentioned on radio, reprinted in newspapers and mocked in blogs. It provides an example of how social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter enable politicians to engage with their constituency on a personal level and how political communication is changing. Carson states that Mr Rudd and his communications strategists know that the selfie is part of the lexicon of the young and the technologically literate. They use social media networks because they leverage vast audiences quickly; and circumvent the traditional news filters of the mainstream media (2013).
This book discusses the public sphere forming public opinion and in turn, directing public policy making. Increasingly, the social media is seen as a place in which public opinion is formed, and where interventions in public opinion are possible by an increasing array of institutions and individuals (Chen, 2013). Chen also discusses ‘slacktivism’, a view that effort engaged in online politics may salve the conscience, but ‘expends’ political energy without effect (2013). This book will help me show the limitations of new media, and that political communication doesn’t always result in political participation.
In this journal, Hoffman intends to define political communication and political participation online. Political communication differs from political participation, because participation is an activity that is intended to influence government (Hoffman 2012, page 220). Hoffman describes how the internet is being used more and more frequently to retrieve information regarding politics and to participate (2012, page 219). This journal assists me in my research because it is important to clearly define political communication and political participation in order to research the changes effected by new media.
Jericho discusses the interaction between new media and traditional political coverage. Jericho states that the coverage of politics in Australia has gone from a relatively traditional walled relationship, with the mainstream media covering events and issues, and the audience passively receiving the news, to one where consumers actively seek out information, and where both they and politicians are able, in some cases, to bypass journalists (Jericho 2012). This book will help me explore the benefits of traditional media and new media, including the ability for new media to play a role as a ‘fifth estate’.
This article discusses how while mainstream media have historically played an important role in political campaigning and in shaping public opinions, online and social media now contribute new communicative ingredients to the public sphere (Sauter&Bruns 2013). Sauter and Bruns examine how social media are conceptualised and used by politicians, citizens and journalists as political tools. Further, they discuss the perceived threat of new, social media to the established news industry. This article will assist in my research on the interaction between social media and mainstream media.
Smith, Schlozman, Verba and Brady discuss the relationship between socio-economic status and internet-based political engagement. They state that the well-to-do and well-educated are more likely than those less well-off to participate in online political activities such as emailing a government official, signing an online petition or making a political contribution (Smith et al. 2009). This survey will assist in my research in showing limitations on new media, including that those who are lower on the socio-economic ladder are less likely to go online or have access to internet.
In this journal, Tenscher discusses the principal characteristic of a democracy being the integration of political representatives and the people (2014). This journal will assist me to argue that the rise of new media has extended the network of communication channels that allow for an exchange of information between constituents and their elected representatives. However, Tenscher also explores the limitations of new media stating that while technical barriers to internet access have been increasingly overcome, the realisation of the electronic democracy nowadays depends primarily on social factors: the need for, the will for, and the individual competence to engage in political online communication (2014) and how this applies not only to constituents but to their elected representatives.
Vromen talks about the opportunities to engage with politics through social media platforms. 90% of those aged 16-29 in each country studied have a Facebook page and 65% of young Australians hear about major news events on Facebook (Vromen 2014). This article will not form the basis of my research however it is useful background information as it discusses how citizens want politicians to be authentic and are sceptical when staff are posting on their behalf (Vromen2014), this is a limitation of social media as sites are often managed by a Media Adviser.
This essay has shown that new media have the potential to enhance democracy, but that they are not without limitations and that new, social media should be seen as interrelated, or supplementary to traditional media.
7:30 Report, 2015, Social media bringing ‘new normal’ to politics suggests Anna Bligh, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, retrieved 3 October 2012, <http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2015/s4203361.htm>
Carson, A. 2013, Prime Ministerial “selfie” speaks volumes, Election Watch, retrieved 17 August 2015, <http://2013electionwatch.com.au/analysis/prime-ministerial-selfie-speaks-volumes>
Chen, P. 2013,Australian Politics in a Digital Age, ANU E Press, Canberra
Chen, P. &Vromen, A. 2012, Social media, youth participation and Australian elections, Australian Electoral Commission, retrieved 17 August 2015,<http://www.aec.gov.au/About_AEC/research/caber/files/1b.pdf>
Hoffman, L.H. 2012, Participation or Communication: An explication of political activity in the internet age, Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 9, pp.217-23
Jericho, G, 2012, The Rise of the Fifth Estate: Social Media and Blogging in Australian Politics, Scribe, Brunswick
Sauter, T. &Bruns, A. 2013, Moving Politics Online: How Australian Mainstream Media Portray Social Media as Political Tools, The Conversation Media Group, retrieved 17 August 2015, <http://theconversation.com/moving-politics-online-how-australian-mainstream-media-portray-social-media-as-political-tools-15465>
Smith, A., Schlozman, K.L., Verba, S. & Brady, H. 2009, The Internet and civic engagement, Pew Research Centre,retrieved 21 August 2015, <http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/15–The-Internet-and-Civic-Engagement.aspx>
Tenscher, J. 2014, MPs and the Internet: An empirically based typology, The Journal of Legislative Studies, 20, pp.305-320
Vromen, A. 2014, Politics as usual? Ailing parties fail to get to grips with social media, The Conversation Media Group Ltd, retrieved 21 August 2015, <http://theconversation.com/politics-as-usual-ailing-parties-fail-to-get-to-grips-with-social-media-32661>
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