5 June: Smith and Soo to present at University of Kent Politics graduate conference

On 5 June 2014 Amy Smith and Nikki Soo will present papers at the conference Politics: The State of the Discipline at the University of Kent. The conference is organised on behalf of the ESRC's South-East Doctoral Training Centre and provides an opportunity for early-stage PhDs to present their initial research to peers and staff at other universities. The abstracts of Amy and Nikki are below. Thanks to the University of Kent for organising the event. If you wish to attend, contact them at: polirsedtc@kent.ac.uk

Amy Smith: Hitting a Moving Target: Controlling the news agenda during elections in the new media environment

This paper will argue that existing models of agenda-setting are not applicable to political communication during elections in the ‘internet-age’. Seminal models, such as Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model and Bennett’s indexing hypothesis, no longer accurately reflect the power relationships between the three main actor groups in political communication: political elites, traditional media, and citizens. An alternative model will be presented, drawing on Andrew Chadwick’s theory of the hybrid media system and Cristian Vaccari’s analysis of citizen’s use of ‘digital politics’ in western democracies. There will be a discussion of the implications for power relationships in the new media environment, and the normative dimension provided by our discipline. Finally, this paper will show how the new model of agenda-setting will be utilised during the 2015 United Kingdom General Election.

A core assumption of political communication is that political and media elites will look to control the news agenda during an election campaign. However, with newer media and digital technologies, citizens are able to interact more efficiently with both elites; this alters the power dynamics between actors. As scholars within the discipline we need to analyse agenda-setting during elections from a fresh perspective. This paper acknowledges the impact of citizens through online tools and recognises the strategies that elites use to retain control of message dissemination. It argues for a reconceptualization of agenda-setting which realistically reflects power relations as they are played out during elections, and shows how this will be demonstrated during the 2015 United Kingdom General Election.

Contact: amy.smith.2011@rhul.ac.uk

Nikki Soo: Digital Media and Democratic Hopes: A Study of ICT Impacts

The pervasive presence of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has been deemed by many such as Karlsen to be a driving force for change. As a hierarchy-free, interactive and global medium rooted in multiple information sources, the Internet and ICTs have allowed an expanding number of users unrivalled opportunities to access information as well as politically express themselves through new avenues. Available research reveal that ICTs have precipitated a paradigm shift in contemporary politics but these studies are predominantly focused on Western liberal democracies.

Recognising this caveat, this paper proposes to inquire and assess the interactions between ICTs, political parties and civil society in non-democratic Asian nations. Singapore will be used as a case study. Democracy eludes this island state despite high levels of Internet penetration, economic development and a well-educated population. To understand if ICTs have made an impact in Singapore’s road to democracy, the following methodology will be employed. Vanhanen’s participatory democracy theory will be synthesised with the theory of mass responsive democratisation to generate a causal path. A qualitative study of three indicators (political institutions, political culture and media system) will be carried out alongside several interviews before being evaluated against the hypothesis. This research hopes to contribute towards democratic transition studies revolving around the potential of the Internet, generating significant analytical and practical ramifications in subsequent ICT-related democratisation studies.

Contact: Nikki.Soo.2011@live.rhul.ac.uk