Social Media and European Politics

Asimina Michailidou is co-editor of a book that brings insights into the consequences and effects that online news and social media have on EU politics. The volume includes several chapters by ARENA staff.

Social Media and European Politics: Rethinking Power and Legitimacy in the Digital Era  is published as part of the series Palgrave Studies in European Political Sociology, which is edited by Hans-Jörg Trenz and Carlo Ruzza.

About the book

Social Media and European Politics: Rethinking Power and Legitimacy in the Digital Era investigates the role of social media in European politics in changing the focus, frames and actors of public discourse around the EU decision-making process. Throughout the collection, the contributors test the hypothesis that the internet and social media are promoting a structural transformation of European public spheres which goes well beyond previously known processes of mediatisation  of EU politics. This transformation brings about the more fundamental challenge of changing power relation, through processes of active citizen empowerment and exertion of digitally networked counter-power by civil society, news media, and political actors, as well as rising contestation of representative legitimacy of the EU institutions. Social Media and European Politics offers a comprehensive approach to the analysis of political agency and social media in European Union politics, by bringing together scholarly works from the fields of public sphere theory, digital media, political networks, journalism studies, euroscepticism, political activism and social movements, political parties and election campaigning, public opinion and audience studies.

Do we need to rethink EU politics in the social media era?

As the EU has progressively expanded both its size and scope of activity, with more countries and areas being subject to its binding regulations, directives and decisions, an implicit consensus for the EU institutional elites can no longer be taken for granted. On the contrary, EU-level decision-making is increasingly challenged by the media, political parties and civil society actors, precisely because the issues at stake – EU enlargement, the European Constitution, economic and fiscal integration and crises that have accompanied it, unprecedented flows of economic migrants and refugees, exits from the EU to name but a few – are perceived as critical and vital and are thereby more likely to spark contestation. In the introductory chapter, Asimina Michailidou and Mauro Barisione discuss the core premises regarding the effects of politicisation and e-mediatisation on EU politics.

European politics on Facebook and Twitter

In chapter 3 "Engaging with European politics through Twitter and Facebook", Hans-Jörg Trenz with Michael Bossetta, and Anamaria Duceac Segesten explore the potential of social media to egage citizens politically beyond the national. The authors consider how the digital achitectures of two predominant social networks, Facebook and Twitter, affect the styles and degrees of political engagement enacted by citizens.

The patterns that the authors find strongly suggest the routinisation of European politics online, in the sense that engagement with EU politics on social media is no longer exceptional but rather a regular occurrence. The Europeanisation of political engagement on social media can be driven by an EU event, an EU political opportunity or an EU institutional environment. Despite this clear focus on Europe and the EU, political engagement on social media regularly reaches out beyond the geographical or political scope of the Union and embraces transnational and global concerns, such as migration.

Campaigning for gender equality through social media

Bringing together research on social media use of organised civil groups and online women’s rights advocacy at the EU level, Helena Seibicke assesses how, and how effectively, the European Women's Lobby (EWL) uses social media for its online advocacy work in chapter 6 "Campaigning for gender equality through social media: The European Women’s Lobby".

Seibicke shows the potential to reach an issue – or policy-specific audience remains unfulfilled for the case of the European Women’s Lobby. Even when the EWL succeeds in gaining public attention through social media campaigns, this does not seem to translate into an increase in its influence on specific legislation or policy making.

Twitter, public engagement and the Eurocrisis

Asimina Michailidou discusses the role of digital media in crisis communication and identifies the conditions under which social media can spearhead a shift in public communication dynamics in chapter 11 "Twitter, public engagement and the Eurocrisis: More than an echo chamber?". This chapter combines data from different sources to map how the process of crisis accountability has been unfolding in the case of the Eurocrisis.

Michailidou finds that in the case of the Eurocrisis, Twitter appears to function more as an echo chamber of elite voices than a refraction chamber, whereby members of the public add their own layer of interpretations or critique to views expressed by the more established or visible public actors. 

Full info:

Social Media and European Politics: Rethinking Power and Legitimacy in the Digital Era
Asimina Michailidou and Mauro Barisione (eds)

Palgrave Macmillan, 2017
ISBN: 9781137598899


Published July 3, 2017 12:22 PM - Last modified Aug. 10, 2017 11:36 AM