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Mediated, interpersonal or interactive? Modes of Public Communication and Representation in German Federal States

Open Panel

Abstract

Communicative skills have always been key factors for politicians’ success both in discrete spheres of political negotiation and decision-making as well as in public arenas of political (re-)presentation. It is the interrelation with external reference groups and followers that particularly request adequate strategies of political communication; all the more since, in recent years, mass media and new media have increasingly been attracting people who have been distancing themselves from political elites and institutions. Against this backdrop of a changing media environment (processes of mediatisation and digitalization) and citizens becoming more and more volatile, unaffiliated and sceptical towards their representatives (processes of rationalization, individualization, dealignment and political cynicism) parliamentary representation is highly dependent on communicative ties. Yet, there is a variety of ways for delegates to build up and cultivate relationships with their constituency: there is the “old-fashioned” way of direct, interpersonal communication broadened by mass mediated and interactive online communications. Our assumption is that different ways of public communication chosen by delegates affect their modes of representation – and vice versa. To test this assumption, we empirically look at communication styles and understandings of representation among German regional state parliamentarians. Generally, sub national political actors and contexts have rarely been investigated in political communications research which has predominantly focused on mediated politics on the national level so far. However, as we will demonstrate, representation and communication on the regional level are in some way special due to media, political and socio-cultural constraints. They ask for specific ways of public communication which are dependent both on political actors’ personality/rationality and institutional factors. That becomes obvious when we empirically look at individual modes of regional political communication and representation. In addition to a typology of communicative representation styles our presentation will provide, for the first time, (generalizable) individual and institutional explanations for variations in the way representation nowadays develops in regional arenas of political publics.