Building: Lossi 36 Room: 204
“The effects of the World Wide Web on society can hardly be exaggerated” (Franzen, 2000). The rapid technical advancements, their challenges and the consequences of digitalization for the political process have been discussed for many years within the social sciences (Jennings/Zeitner, 2003; Kent/Tylor, 1998, Norris, 2001). These challenges unite scholars of conventional and unconventional forms of participation. Parties as well as other political organizations such as civil society organizations (CSOs) have to adapt to the challenges of the digital world. One of the major differences compared to conventional modes of political communication is the two-way-stream of modern, digitalized communication. Organizations face a crowd that wants to interact rather than be informed in a top-down way. Blurring the consumer-producer distinction is a key characteristic of the social web - almost anybody can produce web content. This calls for innovative approaches of interaction. However, not all organizations cope well with these challenges. Research has shown that some organizations deal with this adaption process well while others struggle a bit more (e.g. Bieber, 2014; Matschke et al., 2012). Organizations differ in the degree of using online devices to approach the public or office holders. This starts with providing a user friendly web page and reaches as far as sustaining appropriate social media appearances and following a social media strategy. Another focus of research regards the effect of online communication within political organizations. Executives use internet and social media for organizing their bodies, e.g. virtual meetings, voting on issues or deliberation processes. This poses special challenges on smaller organizations at the local level.
In this panel, we would like to discuss determinants and degrees of adaptation as well as encourage papers that use comparative approaches to analyze CSOs, parties and party systems. How widespread is the use of internet devices of political organizations, are there differences regarding the governmental level? Can political organizations afford not to use social media? How do parties and CSOs engage with members/voters in a dialogue via the web? Do we see a shift form the top-down to a bottom-up perspective regarding the interaction between the organizations and the public as well as within the organizations? If so, does this empower the periphery or reinforce existing social inequalities? Another lacunae is the comparison of CSOs with political parties regarding communication. It is also interesting to evaluate social media strategies of parties and CSOs. Concerns of practitioners of political communication are aspects of best practices. Are there tools or applications parties and CSOs should or should not implement online?