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Communication Dans Un Congrès Année : 2012

Tweeting the election - Twitter use during scandinavian parliamentary elections


Although initially geared towards short, personal status updates, the microblog service Twitter is increasingly used in a variety of contexts and for various reasons, often going beyond answering the suggested question of "What's happening?". This development can be likened to that of "regular" blogging. Indeed, similar patterns of use seem to emerge - for private or leisure as well as for more professional pursuits (Nardi, Schiano, and Gumbrecht 2004). As with the Internet itself, blogging and microblogging have been viewed as having the potential for increasing political participation among previously unengaged citizens (Castells 2007, 255). Although many of these initial hopes for "e-democracy" and the likes (Chadwick 2008; Hilbert 2009) have remain largely unfulfilled, the apparent successful employment of the Internet during the 2008 Obama US presidential campaign has yet again raised voices claiming that "social media" applications such as Twitter could provide new opportunities for online campaigning (Smith 2009; Wattal et al. 2010) and electoral engagement. As such, there is a pertinent need for empirical studies to examine how a service like Twitter contributes to a broadening of public debate, and to what extent it merely serves as yet another arena for already established societal actors. Indeed, previous research has suggested that studies look into microblog use that goes beyond the characterization of "interesting novelty" (Honeycutt and Herring 2009, 10), and Twitter, given its popularity and status, appears to be an ideal candidate for such studies (as suggested by Jansen et al. 2009, 2173). Importantly, such empirical endeavours need to acknowledge the contextual differences in political communication among distinct polities. This means that methodologically, studies need to enable a comprehensive, yet case-specific, look at Twitter practices. Besides studying the uses of Twitter in a variety of everyday contexts, researchers have identified a variety of professional Twitter uses (Grace, Zhao, and boyd 2010). Recently, researchers have studied political microblog (i.e. Twitter) use, with studies focusing on either non-parliamentary or parliamentary uses of the service. As for non-parliamentary uses, the notion of "Twitter revolutions" in totalitarian countries has been introduced, although the exact contents and effects of these uprisings are disputed. For example, Gaffney studied Twitter use during the 2009 Iran elections by tracking the use of the IranElection hashtag. Although Twitter helped protesters in Iran and around the world in organizing their efforts, the author claims that "it is difficult to say with any certainty what the role of Twitter was" (Gaffney 2010). Evgeny Morozov (2009) is not as coy in his criticisms of what he claims is the hyperboly surrounding Twitter use during the Iran election. Following Morozov, the Iranian Twitter revolution is "a myth, dreamed up and advanced by cyber-utopian Western commentators" (2009, 11). It's all media hype, the product of a global Twitterati with little or no insight into the actual protests and processes that went down in Teheran. While studying Twitter use in political hotbeds like Iran provides useful insights into political microblogging, other, more politically stable contexts should be placed under scrutiny as well. A number of studies focusing on different parliamentary uses of Twitter have been published the majority of which have dealt with US conditions. Golbeck et al (2010) focused on the US Congress, and analyzed the contents of over 6000 tweets from Members of Congress. The analysis showed that the Members tweeted primarily to disseminate information, often providing URLs to news articles about themselves or to their blog posts. These modes of usage seemingly correspond with the Sharing information and Reporting news categories reported by Java et al (Java et al. 2007). Congress people also reported on their daily activities, although these updates did not provide insights into the political process, nor did they improve transparency. Golbeck et al label these tweets "vehicles for self-promotion" (Golbeck, Grimes, and Rogers 2010, 1620). While microblogging in general has evolved towards becoming "more conversational and collaborative" (Honeycutt and Herring 2009, 10), Golbeck et al (2010) found such use to be limited among the politicians. Similarly, while the practices of retweeting and hashtagging appear to be widespread among general Twitter users, the researchers found only 5 retweets and 344 tweets with hashtags in their sample. These conservative patterns of use could be a result of forced or semi-adoption of the Twitter platform, an unwillingness to participate in the practice of twittering or perhaps simply a lack of knowledge regarding the different possibilities for use that are available (Golbeck, Grimes, and Rogers 2010). This paper outlines the rationale behind an ongoing research project focusing on Twitter use during national electoral processes in two countries: Denmark and Sweden. As established democracies with high levels of freedom of speech, high numbers of Internet use and ICT penetration as well as relatively high election turnout, the comparative Scandinavian political context represents an interesting case. Specifically, the focus is placed on two recent parliamentary elections: elections in Sweden (2010) and Denmark (2011). By archiving tweets tagged as relevant for the election at hand using the YourTwapperKeeper application (TwapperKeeper 2010), data has been collected for a comprehensive study of political Twitter use. By providing findings on Twitter use before, during and after the height of the two election campaigns, this paper provides unique insights into the practice of civic microblogging in two arguably comparable modern democracies. Moreover, by utilizing social network analyses of large datasets collected with the aid of emerging online applications, the study contributes to the development of the methodological toolbox for research.As such, the overarching research question for the project at hand is: How is political Twitter use fashioned in Sweden and Denmark?The principal investigators involved in this research project are Anders Olof Larsson (, PhD candidate at Uppsala University and Hallvard Moe (, associate professor at the University of Bergen. As of january 2012, two papers from the project have been published or been accepted for publication : on "Studying political microblogging: Twitter users in the 2010 Swedish election campaign" (published in New Media & Society) and "Methodological and ethical challenges with largescale analyses of online political communication" (accepted for publication in Nordicom Review). Current work involve looking further into linking practices through Twitter in Denmark and also Norway.
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Dates et versions

hal-00840581 , version 1 (02-07-2013)


  • HAL Id : hal-00840581 , version 1


Alof Larsson Anders, Hallvard Moe. Tweeting the election - Twitter use during scandinavian parliamentary elections. Communiquer dans un monde de normes. L'information et la communication dans les enjeux contemporains de la " mondialisation "., Mar 2012, France. ⟨hal-00840581⟩


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