The Impact of Twitter on Political Participation in the UK

Topic Outline

Today, Twitter is being used by many people as an outlet to air their views, including politicians, and people who belong to marginalised groups. It is certainly being used to achieve political participation (Valenzuela, Correa and Gil de Zuniga, 2018). This research will entail an analysis of how social media has influenced participation in politics in the UK. First of all, it will provide background information to help understand how social media, especially twitter, has impacted political participation and elections in the UK. Further, the challenges which emerge when Twitter is used to engage people in politics will be critically analysed and discussed. Relevant literature about the topic of how Twitter is used to influence participation in politics will be evaluated, demonstrating how this tool is used to meet political expectations. A focus will be put on how participation is used as the main concept where higher Twitter engagement can result in more votes for a political party.


Literature Review

Research by Ray (2010) demonstrates that the use of the Internet by people is increasingly becoming participatory and social. This individual says that social websites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Flicker, Wikipedia, Myspace and Twitter are the most active site on the wide world web. According to Ray (2010), the application of mobile internet has given an extra boost to the use of Twitter and other social media platforms and that organisations like political parties are making attempts to stay at this pace and the changing environment. Ray (2010) says that most such organisations put a lot of effort to implement these social platforms to their advantage. This individual says that it appears as though political parties are already riding the social media waves, some even without any real strategies.

Other authors like Anadiotis et al. (2010) and Conroy and Evans-Cowley (2006) define the use of social media and political participation through measuring e-participation. They say that there are at least 13 unique participation ladders and that these ladders represent different user participation levels, from getting informed to being empowered. They say that it is not easy to measure and define political participation through social media because of the many inconsistent ways that this participation has been measured and interpreted. They say that it is also not easy to compare and measure political e-participation.

Gronlund (2009) says that Macintosh developed a ladder of online participation which can be used to describe social media participation. This individual highlights the first stage as eEnabling, which gives members access and data. The next step is e-Engaging where people interact and dialogue consulting each other about activities, decisions and projects for instance with polls and forums while the last stage entails e-empowering with options, tasks and responsibilities to collaborate with a team or an organisation.

Wei and Yan (2010) and Rebillard and Touboul (2010) say that with the evolving internet environment, new opportunities to empower and involve citizens in political campaigns emerge, a scenario known as Crowdsourcing. These researchers, however, say that it is a huge challenge which requires a unique perspective on the targeted citizens. According to this study, it is critical to change this perspective to content generators or producers from being content consumers, a change which the researchers claim is difficult. Wei and Yan (2010) and Rebillard and Touboul (2010) argue that to achieve this change needs additional trust within the targeted community.

According to Flew and Wilson (2010), only a few users of a minor group of individuals are often responsible for all the Twitter or social media contributions, users known as super contributors. These researchers claim that because of the super contributors, a new web of political groups or elites is emerging rather than equal citizen’s representation.

Lilleker, Pack and Jackson (2010) and Hibberd (2003) talk of a new emerging concept referred to as the digital divide where there is no equal representation in political participation through online platforms. According to these researchers, some people are not as interested as others and that those who are politically active are the more educated males who earn a relatively higher income and that they have a relatively advanced age as well. In their study, these individuals found that when this group of people are at a younger generation, they participate and post even more. Additionally, those who are interested in politics online are also interested offline.

According to Brandtzaeg and Heim (2009) and Karahasanović et al. (2009), citizen and political participation are linked to social behaviour and that social media can be used to increase social capital which is linked to participation in political matters. This argument is supported by Berners-Lee and Fischetti (2001), the World Wide Web founder, who says that the social application of the Internet was already expected as the Web was developed to be a more social platform to help people to work together by participating more efficiently in different activities.

Research Hypothesis

Twitter can dramatically alter the relationships of people to a community and increase or eliminate participation, thereby profiting or making political parties to lose.

Research Questions

a. How can Twitter be used to change the relationships of people to a community/society?

b. How do political parties use Twitter to get maximum political benefits?

c. How do active members on Twitter help political parties to increase people’s participation in political matters?

d. Is there a downside to the use of Twitter to achieve political participation gaols?

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Research Methodology

This study will employ systematic review of secondary literature to cover a broader view of journals, authors, and disciplines linked to twitter, and participation in the UK’s politics. Electronic databases such as EBSCO and Scopus will be used to find relevant literature sources. Different keywords, like “Twitter” and “political participation” will be applied in the database search. Suitable papers will be selected from the results or retrieved records by analysing their abstracts. Selection criteria; the a-priori technique will be used where some disciplines will be more preferred than others while some papers will be excluded from the study, especially those which do not analyse the subject matter.

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Anadiotis, G., Alexopoulos, P., Mpaslis, K., Zosakis, A., Kafentzis, K. and Kotis, K., 2010, May. Facilitating dialogue-using semantic web technology for eparticipation. In Extended Semantic Web Conference (pp. 258-272). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Berners-Lee, T. and Fischetti, M., 2001. Weaving the Web: The original design and ultimate destiny of the World Wide Web by its inventor. DIANE Publishing Company.

Conroy, M.M. and Evans-Cowley, J., 2006. E-participation in planning: an analysis of cities adopting on-line citizen participation tools. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 24(3), pp.371-384.

Flew, T. and Wilson, J., 2010. Journalism as social networking: The Australian youdecide project and the 2007 federal election. Journalism, 11(2), pp.131-147.

Karahasanović, A., Brandtzæg, P.B., Heim, J., Lüders, M., Vermeir, L., Pierson, J., Lievens, B., Vanattenhoven, J. and Jans, G., 2009. Co-creation and user-generated content–elderly people’s user requirements. Computers in Human Behaviour, 25(3), pp.655-678.

Lilleker, D.G., Pack, M. and Jackson, N., 2010. Political parties and Web 2.0: The liberal democrat perspective. Politics, 30(2), pp.105-112.

Ray, A., 2010. The Implications of Consumers Spending More Time with Facebook than Google, Forrester Blogs. Retrieved August, 30, p.2017.

Rebillard, F. and Touboul, A., 2010. Promises unfulfilled? ‘Journalism 2.0’, user participation and editorial policy on newspaper websites. Media, Culture & Society, 32(2), pp.323-334.

Valenzuela, S., Correa, T. and Gil de Zuniga, H., 2018. Ties, likes, and tweets: Using strong and weak ties to explain differences in protest participation across Facebook and Twitter use. Political Communication, 35(1), pp.117-134.

Brandtzæg, P.B. and Heim, J., 2009, July. Why people use social networking sites. In International conference on online communities and social computing (pp. 143-152). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Grönlund, Å. 2009, September. ICT is not participation is not democracy–eParticipation development models revisited. In International Conference on Electronic Participation (pp. 12-23). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Wei, L. and Yan, Y., 2010, April. Knowledge production and political participation: Reconsidering the knowledge gap theory in the web 2.0 environment. In 2010 2nd IEEE International Conference on Information Management and Engineering (pp. 239-243). IEEE.

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