MEDIA PUBLICATION, 2014
Political communication and social media : revolution or evolution?

Historically, political actors have differed in their motivations for the adoption and use of technological innovations. Technological innovations may have been introduced when there was a perception that the job would be cheaper and faster‘ with such innovations. Still, the reasons for the introduction of technological innovation tend to be much more prosaic, resting on the symbolic value of the significance of adopting new technology, since a variety of actors want to prove that they are modern, relevant, up-to-date, and in line with their competition. This bandwagon effect came under severe criticism in the case of marginal political actors who devised a clear rationale for their appropriation of new technologies. Due to their inferior resource capacity and very limited exposure in traditional media outlets, this type of political actors began to perceive information and communication technologies not just as a mere technological utility but as a game-changer.‘ A set of more sceptical voices of cyber-realists raised growing doubts about the impact the move online might have on the political process. This politics as usual‘ assertion has made the strongest case for the normalization hypothesis by rejecting revolution in the conduct of politics and stressing that the Internet tends to reflect and reinforce the patterns of behaviour of the real world. According to normalization theorists, a sophisticated political economy began to dominate political, economic, social, and recreational life online. Despite the accumulated evidence of the validity of this line of thought, the emergence of social media — in this case, Twitter — calls for its re-examination. Namely, Twitter as a broad, omnipresent, and always-on communication environment creates various kinds of interactions for actors in the political arena. Research indicates how Twitter emerges as an ambient communication space where politicians and their parties are in constant asynchronous connection with their political competitors, the media, and electorate, where various agents engage in a network of interactive co-constructions of the political arena, and where political actors seek power through a diverse, shared communication field. From a historical perspective, societal conditions that would allow for the ideas of access to and participatory interactions in the political sphere have never fully materialized because of the unequal possibilities of entry into the media field, the uneven distribution of communication competences, and the reduction of public debates as well as the legitimization of dominant opinions created by the powerful elite. Preliminary scholarly findings indicate revolutionary potentials for Twitter; however, there is emerging evidence of the normalization of Twitter as a tool of narrow political struggles. The main question to be addressed is therefore: how has Twitter impacted political communication and to what extent are the existing offline power positions mirrored in this ambient communication environment?

Namreč, Twitter kot široko, vseprisotno in stalno komunikacijsko okolje ustvarja različne vrste interakcij za akterje na političnem prizorišču. Raziskave kažejo, kako Twitter nastaja kot ambientalni komunikacijski prostor, kjer so politiki in njihove stranke v stalni asinhroni povezavi s svojimi političnimi konkurenti, mediji in volivci, kjer različni akterji sodelujejo v omrežju interaktivnega sooblikovanja politične arene in kjer politični akterji iščejo moč prek raznolikega, skupnega komunikacijskega polja. Z zgodovinskega vidika se družbeni pogoji, ki bi omogočili ideje o dostopu do politične sfere in participativnih interakcijah v njej, niso nikoli v celoti uresničili zaradi neenakih možnosti vstopa v medijsko polje, neenakomerne porazdelitve komunikacijskih kompetenc in zmanjševanja javnih razprav ter legitimizacije prevladujočih mnenj, ki jih je ustvarila močna elita. Preliminarne znanstvene ugotovitve kažejo na revolucionarne potenciale Twitterja, vendar se pojavljajo dokazi o normalizaciji Twitterja kot orodja ozkih političnih bojev. Glavno vprašanje, ki ga je treba obravnavati, je torej: kako je Twitter vplival na politično komuniciranje in v kolikšni meri se v tem ambientalnem komunikacijskem okolju zrcalijo obstoječi položaji moči brez povezave?

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