ASTK15421U  COURSE: Social Media and the Politics of the Digital Age

Volume 2017/2018
Education

Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS
Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS

Content

Social networking sites (SNSs) like Facebook and Twitter affect virtually all stakeholders in the political process. Politicians and parties use social media to campaign, the media use SNSs to cover political news as it happens, and citizens use social media to read, share, and debate political issues. The new and evolving ways these different actors use social media to engage with politics is altering the traditional power relations between them. In recent history we have seen SNSs play a central role in organizing protests (Occupy Wall Street), launching social movements (#BlackLivesMatter), and even inciting revolutions (the Arab Spring). Still, some scholars argue that since social media activity does not directly influence formal policy making, the impact of social media on politics is minimal.

 

This course will provide students with the knowledge to critically examine the implications of social media for contemporary politics, as well as equip them with the methodological tools for collecting and analyzing social media data in their own research. The course begins with a series of methods workshops that introduce students to R programming and Gephi visualization softwares, so that they can collect and analyze social media data. The remainder of the course is dedicated to situating, theoretically, how social media is challenging traditional dynamics of political communication, media reportage, and citizen engagement with politics.

 

The course is structured as follows:

 

1.                       Introduction and Overview to the Course

2.   The Backdrop: Contemporary Trends in the Political and Media Landscape

3.   (Seminar) ‘R’ You Kidding Me, I’m Programming!? Social Media Data Collection with R I

4.   (Seminar) Social Media Data Collection with R II

5.   (Seminar) Computational Social Science: Mining your Data in R I

6. (Seminar) Computational Social Science: Mining your Data in R II

7.                       Social Media and the Public Sphere: New Technologies, New Dynamics

8.   The Supply Side of Political Communication: How Political Actors use Social Media during Election Campaigns

9.   Hybrid Media: The Relationship between ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Media

10. The Demand Side of Political Communication: Empowered Citizens?

11. It’s All about Networking: The Logic of Connective Action and Protest Movements

12. SNSs and Digital Architectures: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube Compared

13.                     Big Data versus Thick Data: Approaches to Social Media Research

14.                     Conclusion and Reflections

 

  1. Competency Description

    This course helps students understand how new media technologies affect traditional power relationships between politicians, media, and the citizenry. The course further enriches students’ understanding of contemporary political processes as well the role of citizens in influencing them in the Digital Age. The course prepares students theoretically and methodologically to conduct their own social media research in relation to elections, media studies, and/or public opinion.

    The course is useful for students aiming to work in political communication, public relations, journalism, or civil society organizations. The hands-on introduction to programming will aid students interested in using computational social science for their thesis, and some students may continue to develop these skills to increase their marketability in future job searches.

 

Learning Outcome

At the end of the course, students are expected:

Knowledge
• To be able to describe how social media is changing the ways politicians, the media, and citizens interact with one another as well as engage with polarizing political issues
• To be able to compare the digital architectures of social media and understand how this affects the information and communication flows taking place within them
• To be able to reflect upon the implications of social media for contemporary political processes, and democracy more broadly

Skills
• To be able to carry out social media data collection and analysis using state-of-the-art programming methods
• To be able to visualize social networks using Gephi and interpret them meaningfully

Competences
• To be able to apply theories of social media to identify politically and socially relevant empirical cases
• To be able to incorporate social media data and approaches into existing political science theoretical and methodological frameworks

 

All course literature is available online via Rex. The course has two primary texts, supported by a number of secondary sources. The two primary texts are:

 

Coleman, S., & Freelon, Deen. (2015). Handbook of Digital Politics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

 

Bruns, A., Burgess, J., & Mahrt, M. (2013). Twitter and Society. K. Weller, & C. Puschmann (Eds.). New York: Peter Lang.

 

  1. Introduction and Overview to the Course

Coleman, S., & Freelon, Deen. (2015). Handbook of Digital Politics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

  • Chapter 1, Introduction: Conceptualizing Digital Politics 1-17 (17 pages)

  • Chapter 2, The Internet as a Civic Space 18-34 (16 pages)

Trottier, D., & Fuchs, C. (2014). Social media, politics and the state: Protests, revolutions, riots, crime and policing in the age of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

  • Chapter 1, Theorising Social Media, Politics and the State: 3-38 (35 pages)

Further Reading:

  • Castells, M. (2009). Rise of the Network Society, With a New Preface: The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture Volume I (2nd ed., Information Age Series). Hoboken: Wiley

  • Chapter 5: The Culture of Real Virtuality: The Integration of Electronic Communication, the End of the Mass Audience, and the Rise of Interactive Networks 355–406 (51 pages)

 

  1. The Backdrop: Contemporary Trends in the Political and Media Landscape

Kriesi, H., Bochsler, Daniel, Matthes, Jorg, Lavenex, Sandra, Buhlmann, Marc, & Esser, Frank. (2013). Democracy in the age of globalization and mediatization (Challenges to democracy in the 21st century). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

  • Introduction: The New Challenges to Democracy 1-17(17 pages)

  • Chapter 7: Mediatization as a Challenge: Media Logic Versus Political Logic 155-176 (21 pages)

  • Conclusion: An Assessment of the State of Democracy Given the Challenges of Globalization and Mediatization 202-216
    (14 pages)

Mazzoleni, G., & Schulz, W. (1999). `Mediatization' of politics: A challenge for democracy?. Political Communication16(3), 247-261. (14 pages)

Further Reading:

De Wilde, Pieter. "No polity for old politics? A framework for analyzing the politicization of European integration." Journal of European Integration 33.5 (2011): 559-575. (16 pages)

 

3.     (Seminar) ‘R’ You Kidding Me, I’m Programming!? Social Media Data Collection with R I

 

Bruns, A., Burgess, J., & Mahrt, M. (2013). Twitter and society. K. Weller, & C. Puschmann (Eds.). New York: Peter Lang.

  • Chapter 5, Data Collection on Twitter 55-69 (14 pages)

 

Jürgens, Pascal and Jungherr, Andreas, A Tutorial for Using Twitter Data in the Social Sciences: Data Collection, Preparation, and Analysis (January 5, 2016). Available at http:/​/​dx.doi.org/​10.2139/​ssrn.2710146
(93 pages)

 

4.    (Seminar) Social Media Data Collection with R II

 

5.    (Seminar) Computational Social Science: Mining your Data in R I

 

Bruns, A., Burgess, J., & Mahrt, M. (2013). Twitter and society. K. Weller, & C. Puschmann (Eds.). New York: Peter Lang.

  • Chapter 8, Computer Assisted Content Analysis of Twitter Data 97-109 (12 pages)

    Coleman, S., & Freelon, Deen. (2015). Handbook of Digital Politics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

  • Chapter 16, Computational Approaches to Online Politics Expression: Rediscovering a ‘Science of the Social’ 281-305 (24 pages)

  • Chapter 24, Automated Content Analysis of Online Political Communication 433-450 (17 pages)

Further Reading:

Cioffi-Revilla, C. (2013). Introduction to computational social science: principles and applications. Springer Science & Business Media.

  • Chapter 1, Introduction1-21 (20 pages)

 

  1. 6. (Seminar) Computational Social Science: Mining your Data in R II

     

    Ekbia, H., Mattioli, M., Kouper, I., Arave, G., Ghazinejad, A., Bowman, T., ... & Sugimoto, C. R. (2015). Big data, bigger dilemmas: A critical review. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology66(8), 1523-1545. (22 pages)

 

7.    (Seminar) Networking Visualization: A Gephi Tutorial

 

Cherven, K. (2013). Network Graph Analysis and Visualization with Gephi. Birmingham, GBR: Packt Publishing Ltd

  • Chapter 2, Creating Simple Network Graphs 17-30 (13 pages)

 

Cioffi-Revilla, C. (2013). Introduction to computational social science: principles and applications. Springer Science & Business Media.

  • Chapter 4, Social Networks (29 pages)

 

Further Reading:

 

Barberá, P., Jost, J. T., Nagler, J., Tucker, J. A., & Bonneau, R. (2015). Tweeting From Left to Right Is Online Political Communication More Than an Echo Chamber?. Psychological science 1-12 (12 pages)

 

You can read the full list in Absalon

 

This course is recommended for students with an interest in political communication, media studies, and/or protest movements. Students should have a basic understanding of party politics, democratic theory, and social media. They should also have a working knowledge of qualitative methods, e.g. content analysis or discourse analysis, in order theoretically ground the computational science methods they will learn during the course. However, no prior knowledge of computational social science or programming is needed.
The course consists of primarily of lectures and student discussions, but will also contain four seminar-style classes. In the first, students will learn to use R programming software to collect Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram Data. In the second and third seminars, they will learn how to use R to mine and analyze their data. The fourth will introduce students to Gephi, in order to visualize the connections among social media users. The lectures will disseminate theoretical approaches to social media in relation to politics, as well as apply theories to primarily two empirical cases: the ongoing 2016 US Presidential Election and upcoming UK
Credit
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Oral exam
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28