Twitter and the public sphere - The European elections in 2014

Verdegem, P., Cederic Courtois, Peter Mechant, Jakob Linaa Jensen, Stine Lomborg (2012). Twitter and the public sphere - The European elections in 2014. .

Abstract: This research collaboration will investigate the changing role of the media in the context of political communication and elections. Mass media have traditionally functioned as the intermediary between society and political institutions. The rise of social media, however, offers the potential for both politicians and citizens to circumvent the media, and directly influence each other. This process results in the emergence of a networked public sphere, in which citizens but also the journalists, political elites and other stakeholders can actively participate in public discourse. The proposed research employs agenda-setting theory, a framework often used in election campaign research that enables us to explore the changing relationship between the media, political elites and citizens. We combine traditional agendasetting theory with a network analysis approach in order to capture the potential and impact of social media for political communication. The central question underpinning the proposed research is an investigation of what characterizes the dynamics between traditional mass media and social media in political communication and agenda setting, and how this impacts the public sphere and the relationship between media, politics and society. By framing the research around an analysis of social media communications during the 2014 European elections from a cross-national perspective, we will investigate (a) how political elites use social media for online election campaigning and (b) how and to what extent social media have an impact on communication flows and power relationships between journalists, political elites, and the public. Although a number of studies have investigated agenda-setting in relation to the political blogosphere, we opt for a case study around Twitter and the public sphere. Twitter is not only one of the most popular and well-known platforms for micro-blogging, it is also a social media platform that provides interesting opportunities for online campaigning and deliberation. In addition, given the ‘open’ character of Twitter, data collection and archiving of tweets can easily be organized. As the 2014 European elections offer a unique opportunity to engage in European crossnational research, we would like to invite interested COST members from EU member states to join this research project by adopting the proposed means of data collection and data analysis.