RETHINKING PARTICIPATION IN THE DIGITAL ERA Social Media Networks as a Digital Public Sphere for European Politics
Sammanfattning: The digital structure of social networking sites hold vast democratic value in light of the democratic deficit in the European Union. The sites have increased the possibility for the public of European citizens to participate in politics through cross-border deliberation, and has potential to constitute as a digital European public sphere. However, no approach in the works on political participation online has so far put forward an empirical actor-focused analysis of how the European public is truly utilising this potential. This thesis address these hortcomingsin current research and aims to investigate the digital European public sphere and the public ofEuropean citizens’ participation in European politics through social networking sites. In order to do so, a qualitative content analysis with a directed approach is applied as the research method. An analytical framework based on previous research and key theoretical considerations is used as a coding scheme for organisation and analysis of data collected from the European Parliament’s official Twitter account. The thesis’ analysis indicates that the public of European citizens make use of Twitter’s potential for political deliberation in many noteworthy ways. In particular, the public showed a strong critical function and there is little deviation from the topic of EU policy during the discussions on the site. Yet, it may be too early to speak of a fully European digital public sphere.
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