Category: Social Media and Political Participation

Social Media Musings: It All Comes Out on the Internet

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By Scott Cairns, NYU ’15

In an age where every politician is expected to have a Facebook, Twitter, or Blog, we now have a unique window into the minds of our local, state, and even national politicians. What these social media channels translate into is often a two-way conversation between politicians and their constituencies, where every thought that these public representatives post is dissected, interpreted, and commented on. The honesty that this new ‘dialogue’ calls for is much less conducive to happy political parties, where two politicians in one party with two very different ideologies may in the past have played nice in person but now express their true feelings via blog.

Upon voicing these honest opinions online, politicians may find a network of their constituents  who agree with them, convincing them to stand by their opinions (because who doesn’t love positive reinforcement). Look at the Italian Democratic Party, whose recent faction-ization was fueled by the clear public disappointment expressed through nearly every media channel–traditional or new–in former leader Pier Luigi Bersani, contrasted with the popularity of Matteo Renzi.

Andrea Ceron and Alessandra Caterina Cremonesi of the University of Milan will investigate this very phenomenon at LPD’s upcoming conference on Social Media and Political Participation. As their abstract for the forthcoming paper, “Politicians Go Social, Estimating Intra-party Heterogeneity (and its Effects) through the Analysis of the Social Media,” they state that ‘politicians belonging to different party factions feel free to express their sincere preferences on social media (blogs) of social network sites like Facebook and Twitter.” We’ll have to see what all of this newfound brutal honesty does to party dynamics and the voice of voters on the day-to-day functioning of their member-parties.

To learn more about our upcoming conference on Social Media and Political Participation, click here.

To join the conference conversation on social media, click here.

To learn more about the latest research at NYU in the field of social media and political participation, click here visit the online lab of NYU Professor and conference organizer Joshua Tucker.

Social Media Musings: Occupy Wall Street

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By Scott Cairns, NYU ’15

Remember when Occupy Wall Street was touted as the start of a new era in American politics? Then, remember when it all fell apart? When Alessandro Flammini of the University of Indiana presents his findings on “The Rise and Decline of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Movement from a Digital Perspective,” I wonder if he will come to the same conclusion I did: a movement, whether digital or tangible, is nothing without a leader.

A digital movement with a leader can go places. Here in Italy, we have a prime example in Mr. Beppe Grillo of the Five Star Movement. He was the face of a blog that basically ran his campaign for him, but the important thing is that he was indeed a FACE: a tangible human being who people could envision speaking to them when reading the blog. That human being could be found at rallies, always speaking the same message in the same fiery passionate style.

This is what OWS lacked. In Flammini’s abstract for his upcoming presentation at our conference, he finds that ‘online activity was strongly correlated with ‘on the ground events’ but then that these events ‘focused on organizational aspects rather than collective framing.’ Collective framing is a problem that is addressed when you’re movement is framed around a leader who represents the movement. If you ask me, part of why Beppe was so successful is that he had a chance to watch OWS unfold and learn from past mistakes.

To learn more about our upcoming conference on Social Media and Political Participation, click here.

To join the conference conversation on social media, click here.

To learn more about the latest research at NYU in the field of social media and political participation, click here visit the online lab of NYU Professor and conference organizer Joshua Tucker.