Social Media Networks and the Relationships between Citizens and Politics
The internet has radically transformed traditional political mobilisation and participation: participation costs have become extremely low; the need for co-presence evaporated; flexible, horizontal institutional structures replaced conventional organisations; and content can be produced and distributed by everybody easily. Social media content provides direct access to networks and content produced by citizens. It can not only reveal their attitudes towards policy problems, politicians, elections, riots, protests and unrest, but also highlight people’s preferences, willingness to participate and mobilise others. The present project exploits this new type of information aiming to deepen our understanding of citizens’ decision to participate politically. The main research questions are (a) how do social media (re)shape the relationships between citizens and politics (communication), and (b) how do these media affect the willingness to become politically active (mobilisation). The project combines new methodologies and techniques for handling and analysing large-scale social media data in combination with survey data on political behaviour.
The project aims to study citizens’ decision to participate in protest events by collecting and analysing content posted in social media during recent mobilisations in Spain, Greece, and the US. Data collection has been completed, a preliminary analysis of Twitter data has already taken place and a book chapter for a volume on internet research methods has been produced. An online survey that will complement content harvested from Facebook is currently being developed and will be launched early January 2013. Our approach on analysing political discussion pairs or groups using social-network analysis is also currently being developed.