Andrew Chadwick and Ben O'Loughlin will each present papers at the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) General Conference, Reykjavik, Iceland, 25-27 August. Their papers are in the eight-panel section, Internet and Politics: Bridging Current Research and Outlining Future Directions, chaired by Andrea Calderaro (European University Institute) and Anastasia Kavada (University of Westminster). Andrew Chadwick will also be discussant on a further panel in the Internet and Politics section. Here are details of the two papers.
This paper combines theory and empirical analysis to explore recent systemic change in the nature of political communication. Drawing on evidence from Britain and the United States on the changing relationships among politicians, media, and publics, I argue for the concept of the hybrid media system. This system is built upon interactions among old and new media and their associated technologies, genres, norms, behaviors, and organizations. Actors in the hybrid media system are articulated by complex and evolving power relations based upon adaptation and interdependence. We now require a holistic approach to the role of information and communication in politics—one that does not exclusively focus on new or old media, but instead empirically maps where the distinctions between new and old matter, and where they do not. The focus of my attention in this article is news. First, I outline an ontology of hybridity. Next, I discuss assemblages of hybridized news making. Then I examine the phenomenon of WikiLeaks as an example of power and interdependence in the construction of news.
Nick Anstead and Ben O’Loughlin
While journalists speculated about whether the 2010 UK General Election was the country’s “first Internet election”, one important way in which the Internet was incorporated into the election process was under-examined: semantic polling. Semantic polling refers to the use of algorithms and natural language processing to “read” vast datasets of public commentary harvested from the Internet, which could be disaggregated, analysed in close-to-real-time, and presented to various audiences. We present findings from interviews with social media monitoring firms, the parties that used those firms’ services, and journalists who used such firms’ results in their electoral coverage, as well as content analysis of media electoral coverage. We examine assumptions about: (i) the utility of such data, (ii) the correspondence of semantic polling to normative models of democracy, (iii) the demand for insights into why citizens would vote as they did not just who/what/where (i.e. the demand for “intelligence”), and (iv) how semantic polling could be integrated with traditional methods. Such techniques were at a very early stage, with problems of data gathering, analysis and the presentation of results to parties and publics. Nor were methodological shortcomings necessarily explained when polling was presented. Nevertheless, we consider how such approaches will continue to develop in coming years in different countries.