The project has studied how social media impact on election campaigns in Norway and internationally. Key research questions was the extent to which social media contribute to a more inclusive and public debate, the extent to which social media is taking over parts of the traditional media's agenda-setting role, and how the new media channels affects the relationship between politicians and voters.
The project's main findings
- Social media contributes to increased personalization of politics because profiles on social media is personal and the personal generate the greatest enthusiasm among the users. The effect on personalization is particularly noticeable in party-oriented political system as the Norwegian.
- Social media represents an opportunity to bypass the editorial processes, and give politicians direct access to the voters and gain a new agenda-setting power in relation to established media.
- Compared with the United States, Norwegian political leaders use social media in less elitist and more informal ways. In both countries, political campaigns use social media for purposes of branding and image-building, and often showcases more personal sides of themselves.
- Norwegian politicians distinguished in that they communicate more directly with voters via social media compared to internationsl politicians. A difference which might be explained by the Nordic media system and political culture.
- Social media does not replace traditional mass media, and broadcast TV is for example still the most important medium in the election campaign, but social media is changing the way we use TV as well as all other media and operates in interaction with theses in a hybrid media landscape.
- Social media is hierarchical and, in general, the most powerful people offline is also the ones with greatest impact online. However, there are a few exceptions, where ordinary users gain access to the public sphere and impact on the political debates via social media.
- The democratizating aspect of socia media is thus relative, and must be understood in light of the political context, and the variations between various social media platforms. The threshold for participation for eample lowe on Facebook, compared to Twitter, but the potential for influencing on decition-makers might be higher on Twitter.
- In spite of polarized debates, the 'echo chamber' tendencies are less dominant in Norwegian twittersphere, compared to the USA and Australia, because there is a more prominent common national arena.
Social media not only serve as arenas for debate and discussion, they are also increasingly integrated in inter-media agenda-setting, as they serve as input to the mainstream media. Political actors as well as citizens use them in order to draw attention to issues and manage their public images. The increasing cross-mediality between the social media and the mainstream media can be described in terms of creating "hybrid public spheres" in which the social and mainstream media overlap and interact. The pro ject takes a cross-media and cross-national approach, by researching political communication in election campaigns in Australia, Norway, Sweden and USA. The project has one overall and three sub-RQs:
What characterizes the dynamics between social media a nd mainstream media in political agenda-setting, and how does this dynamic impact the relationship between politicians and voters in different political systems?
-What characterizes politicians' use of social media as a tool of political communication i n countries of different size and with different election systems, and to what degree has political debate migrated from mainstream media to social media?
-What characterizes the dynamics between social media and mainstream media in agenda setting during election campaigns, and to what degree do journalists in different nations relate to and incorporate social media as editorial raw material?
-What characterizes the 'hybrid public sphere' in the intersection between social media and mainstream media, and to what degree are traditional power hierarchies and elite domination challenged in the new hybrid public sphere?
The project is designed as five integrated work packages. The first four packages will be studies of the interaction and inter-media agen da-setting processes in election campaigns in the selected countries, while the fifth will compare findings and develop cross-national analyses.