Politics in Digital Society

Troels Runge

Publikation: Bog / Antologi / Rapport / Ph.D.-afhandlingPh.d.-afhandling


This thesis departs from the fact, that the use of social media platforms has become a precondition for politicians and parties, where social media have been presented as new opportunities to reach and engage voters, bypassing mass media, and levelling the political playing field. Now, however, politicians and parties face the limitations and control of platforms, and must submit to new forms of media logic, increased mediatization of politics.

To comprehend this transformative shift, we must understand that digital and social media permeate all aspects of society, that we now live in a digital society. Sociologist Deborah Lupton have noted that “... the very idea of ‘culture’ or ‘society’ cannot now be fully understood without the recognition that computer software and hardware devices not only underpin but actively constitute selfhood, embodiment, social life, social relations and social institutions” (Lupton, 2014). This is certainly true in politics too. This thesis is contextualized within the formal arena of national politics in Denmark, including the Danish media system and the specificity of Danish political culture. Throughout the thesis, I focus on how social media platforms are used by Danish politicians, as an illustration of how the transformative power of platforms impacts formal politics, i.e., how politics is exercised and performed by politicians and political parties in election campaigns as well as in agenda-setting in everyday politics. The methodological approach of the thesis takes the form of an inductive, observational mapping of political life on social media and beyond in Denmark. This approach does in no way imply that the thesis is detached from theory. On the contrary, the overall argument is based on the conceptualisation of social media as a new form of social interaction, mediated online interaction, that takes place on media and technology platforms with distinct media logics of their own and which contributes to an increased mediatization of political communication culture and society. In practical terms, I explore three empirical cases. The first case, Governing with Social Media, is an introduction to the field of digital political communication in Denmark and how the party leaders and Members of Parliament use social media. In the second case, Breaking the Agenda, I explore how social media platforms are used for setting the agenda on social media platforms and in the news media. The primary focus is on how live streaming video is used in context of political events. Finally, in the last case, Danish Elections and Campaigning, I unfold how social media have been used in the past general elections.

Among the main findings are that politicians are increasingly using multiple social media platforms to set the political agenda, stay visible to the voters and the news media, and cultivate the personal candidacy. Adding to this, although it is not possible to say that the use of social media will guarantee an election win, it seems clear that it has become virtually impossible to get elected without the use of social media. With this thesis, I aim to contribute to the limited, but emerging field of research in political communication on social media in Denmark. The field needs attention, if we want to understand the wider impact of social media on politics in digital society. As such, this thesis does not mark the end of research, but rather it is a part of the initial mapping of a growing research field, which I hope to explore more in the future.
ForlagIT-Universitetet i København
Antal sider324
ISBN (Trykt)978-87-7949-052-9
StatusUdgivet - 2021


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