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What a wonderful view over Paris I had - Political Communication in Social Networks

Gerhard Fuchs
Universität Stuttgart
Gerhard Fuchs
Universität Stuttgart
Open Panel

Abstract

Cyber politics is in an up swing. Still and again the Internet is supposed to change the technological context of politics in dramatic ways. The most recent wave, promising once again to revolutionize politics consists of Social Networks like Facebook, Twitter etc. There already exist many case studies on how Facebook or Twitter were used to help organize political protest or how it was used in election campaigns. Usage, however, differs markedly between different nations and groups with specific socio-economic characteristics and/or attitudes towards technology and politics in general. The present paper does not look at social networks in terms of its use by political activists and its potential effects on the political process. The present paper is more interested in the content being offered and transmitted over Social Networks. It concentrates on the ways and the extent traditional political actors (members of parliament) are using or not using Facebook and Twitter. The empirical basis of the paper is a comparison of the Facebook accounts of French and German members of parliament on the national level as well as the results of a standardized survey conducted among German politicians using twitter. The empirical investigation will try to determine to what extent party statements and programs are communicated via social networks, links are being established to the respective party, generalized political statements etc. or whether personal stories (“this morning I had breakfast with my family and I played with my dog”) and personal impressions (“what a wonderful view over Paris I had”) are being communicated. Contrary to a lot of American experiences the use of Twitter and Facebook by established French and German politicians is rather depoliticized and only seldom used to incite debates or campaigns. The revolution might have to wait a little while.