CEDEM 12, Day 1, Afternoon Sessions #cedem12

Some of our #cedem12 afternoon Sessions / Main Hall:

Bringing Citizens’ Opinions to Members of Parliament (Ruxandra Geana, Steve Taylor, Timo Wandhoefer)

With the EU-project WeGov Timo Wandhoefer introduced a toolset that allows policy makers taking advantage of citizen opinions on different topics. Searching for a special topic WeGov should allow policy makers to collect, aggregate, analyze and present inputs from citizens within most social networks by using visualization technologies. As a special challenge for using WeGov Wandhoefer mentioned respecting privacy.

The impact of public transparency in fighting corruption (James Batista Vieira, Ricardo Wahrendorff Caldas)

Quite the most charming appearance of the conference was granted by James Vieira, who was accidentally declared as absent – and when asked, why he wouldn’t correct that misinterpretation earlier, by answering that question with the statement: „i was too shy“ – right before he started his talk with telling us: „We have a very big problem with corruption in Brasil“..

The Largest Democracy – India – Poised for Electronic Government and Electronic Democracy (Singara Rao Karna)

Some of our #cedem12 afternoon Sessions / SE 1.5:

Mobilizing Effects of Online Campaigning (Marianne Fraefel)

Switzerland is a very decentralised state with a large number of small and heterogeneous party units at the local level. The paper presented dealt with the relevance of e-campaigning and drew on data like semi-structured interviews with 25 campaign managers, an analysis of party internal communication etc. For an analysis on e-campaigning different party websites were checked. Results pointed towards a general focus on information and that opportunities for people regarding possible participation in the party were not fully exploited. The general rate would be that around 36 % of these websites offer such opportunities. Another result was that the usage and integration of social media in these sites was quite experimental.

As for sources of information on election, many channels were equally important for all age groups, but party websites are more interesting for the younger supporter base. The survey asked about what kind of information people are seeking on the websites. More than half of the members and supporters used party websites at least once a year, whilst the most important motivation for a visit is information on elections (81%). Quite a few people use them for downloading signature lists or disseminating a campaign (16%).

Regarding social media, parties do not necessarily pursue a social media strategy and the overall demand for contact via social media is rather small. Another finding was that parties are not so much aware of the potentials of e-campaigning, although voluntary e-campaigners may contribute to integrating new supporters communicatively.

Social Media and the Arab Spring (Sohail Dahdal)

This paper is based on an (auto)ethnographic perspective (research was started more than 20 years ago) and historical aspects, in particular with regards to how technology affects culture. By naming a revolution „Arab Spring“ we often assume a unified thing behind the revolutions. However, there is a historical progression affecting today’s happenings. Some factors creating the movement in the area were the population getting younger and a rise of the leftists‘ movements and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Interesting finding in relation to previous discussion: The only people who are willing to give their name in protest are the real activists. Examples on the internet and television created the cultural awakening on the basis of a long history of readiness, as opposed to a big social media bang. Aljazeera made social media powerful by making decisions about what media to present. Pages like Khaled Said on Facebook (English version) already had a community online before the revolution.

„The world will not be saved by the internet but by the rise human spirit“ (Sherwin Nuland)

LINK to presentation @prezi.com

Jobbik on Web. Right-wing extremism in Hungary (Melani Barlai)

Jobbik is one of the most radical right-wing parliamentary parties in Europe and the third largest party in Hungary. By the success of Jobbik the internet has played a larger role than by all other Hungarian parties. In Hungary, the number of potential right-wing extremists has more than doubled from 10 % in 2003 to 21 % in 2009. The country does not have a historically evolved democratic culture. As for online activities of Hungarian parties, some parties (in particular Fidesz) managed to influence the blogosphere and to increase their young voters.

The most popular social online platform in Hungary is – surprise🙂 – Facebook, where Fidesz conducted a campaign in „Obama-style“. Other parties (like MSZP) didn’t go for a Facebook campaign. In the Jobbik case we can observe an extremely well-organised network with hundreds of right-wing extremist websites interlinked via social media platforms and an effective usage of Internet platforms like kuruc.info, facebook, iwiw.

Taking a closer look at the jobbik fans on Facebook, it is striking that they are more educated than the Hungarian average. This challanges the general stereotype of the poor, unemployed and undereducated Jobbik supporter as the losers of the transition. Jobbik achieved that a large number of affected citizens are turning towards its online movement. It also seems that many young people have found a home in the right-wing extremist micro-universe and its popularity. Is this popularity an expression of the fail of Hungarians political transformation? Howerver, there are also big online activities and mobilisation of rather left-wing political groups on Facebook – e.g. „One Million for Freedom of Speech on FB“.

Mapping the Austrian political Twittersphere (Axel Maireder, Julian Ausserhofer, Axel Kittenberger)

The idea for this research started one year ago at CEDEM11 when Axel Bruns was talking about analysing the Twitter sphere and subsequently gave a seminar at the University of Vienna.

One question behind the project is how social media like Twitter are changing the way people think about politics and the nature of political communication. According to Davis (2010), politics for those already engaged are getting denser, wider, more pluralistic and inclusive, but social media opportunities will not have too much of an effect for those not interested at all. But does Twitter contribute to a broadening of participation in public debate and to what extent does it offer an arena for public actors?

Analysed and visualised were networked conversations (hashtags) and replies. 374 users were identified by looking for users using political words (party names, names of politicians, Austrian political expressions etc.) and classified into different user groups. Tweets were also classified by topic.

Results point to a very central political Twitter sphere consisting of clusters like political professionals, early adopters and political activists. Some striking findings show how not too important politicians have quite a central presence in the Twitter sphere (and play a role within the network), whilst most politicians are not too connected. Some early adopter students or activits (@porrporr @fatmike182) play a central role in connecting people. Many other relations can be analysed, pointing towards new approaches to study politics on the web.

For the Austrian Twitter sphere, there is a high involvement of citizens as well as, despite the dense network, high interaction with users outside the network. Chances for citizens to get in contact with politicians and journalists are much higher than in traditional context. The study can be downloaded (in German) at twitterpolitik.net.

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