Political Communication in the Digital Age
Endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Political Communication
Political communication research has never been more relevant than it is today, as digital media have permeated deeply into all political, social, and personal spheres. Citizens use digital platforms to inform themselves, form opinions, express their views, and organize collective action, as well as for entertainment and socializing. Politicians, parties, but also transnational political actors use these platforms to reach, persuade and influence voters and citizens.
Research over the past decade has uncovered many dark sides of digital publics, from hate speech, incivility, and low levels of deliberation, the spread of mis- and disinformation, conspiracy narratives, or populist, and radical-right content, manipulation through inauthentic communication, to negative campaigning, affective polarization, and news avoidance. Against the backdrop of multiple crises, from Russia’s war against Ukraine to the energy crisis, and the ongoing pandemic, it is imperative to deepen our understanding of these phenomena that challenge liberal democracies.
As platforms and digital communication continue to evolve at a fast pace, offline communication is also being transformed. The acquisition of Twitter by a billionaire, to provide a specific example, has implications for the dissemination of information to the broader public, the practices of journalists and advertisers, and the venues where researchers exchange knowledge.
Additionally, rapid developments in the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence change the content that we encounter online and the logics of its production. Some of these developments, such as the evolution of political campaigns into data-driven campaigns, are already in full swing, while new shifts with far-reaching implications are imminent, such as the adoption of text-generation large language models by a broader public. Such technological disruptions not only raise new theoretical questions for political communication research, but also provide opportunities for methodological innovations in the field of (computer-assisted) media, journalism and political communication research.
This Section aims to bring together contributions from the field of political communication research in the broadest sense. Broadly speaking, we have a special interest in contributions that enhance our understanding of digital political communication.