Wednesday, 11 April 2012

New publication: The Subtle Nature of Facebook Politics

My latest article, "The subtle nature of Facebook politics: Swedish social network users and political participation" was recently published by New Media & Society as an "online before print" text. It will appear in the printed version sometime later this year or so.

For this study, I interviewed local politicians, members of interest organisations (environmental, human rights etc) and people who were not active in politics about their attitudes to political content in social network sites (ie Facebook).

It is sometimes claimed that by being exposed to political content and recruitment attempts, social network sites such as Facebook would make more people susceptible to participate actively in politics. However, it seems that people have all sorts of reasons for not participating: politics is too private to be discussed publicly; potential employers might not like my political views; Facebook is not appropriate for political discussion or action; politics and political discussion seems overly dichotomised. Etc.

However, non-actives are regularly exposed to political information, which raises their awareness although it doesn't necessarily mobilise them. People who are active in politics know this and use social network sites to subtly "inform" their Friends.

This text was a long time in the making, and I feel great now that it is finally published. I'm currently drafting another article with sort of the same argument, but using statistical data. The original abstract for the NMS article below.

Sweden, with a high level of political participation and an avant-garde position regarding internet access, broadband and social media penetration in the population, is a critical case for studying social media in relation to political participation. Three types of users – members of political parties, members of interest organizations, and non-members – are interviewed in focus groups about their attitudes to political content in the social network site Facebook. The discussions show that although practices and attitudes vary, using social network sites alone does not drive previously inactive respondents to political participation. Respondents who are members of interest organizations view social network sites as valuable tools for participation, whereas respondents who are not refrain from sharing political views with their friends. They are exposed to political content and requests for participation, but prefer generally to remain passive.