Monday, 2 September 2013

Political Microblogging

One of the many consequences of the rise of social media has been the increased prominence of political microblogging. 

As defined by Kaplan and Haenlein (2011, p. 106), microblogs are mediums 'which allow users to exchange small elements of content such as short sentences, individual images, or video links'. 

Twitter is a microblogging platform which has been
central to allowing for political issues to be discussed
and opinions to be aired (Source: Twitter)
Arguably the most noted and influential of the microblogging family is Twitter, which has regularly been examined in recent years in order to ascertain the relationship between the medium and political discourse -- particularly, the role the platform plays in advancing channels of democracy.

One such study has been that of Larsson and Moe, who conducted a content analysis of Twitter use during the 2010 Swedish election campaign. 

Among their findings, which analysed close to 100,000 tweets, Larsson and Moe (2011, p. 741) concluded that 'Twitter contributes to a broadening of public debate: it constitutes a novel arena for mediated public communication, and the sheer number of tweets ... testifies to its use'. 

Indeed, one need not to look at only Sweden to recognise such a trend.

In Australia, Twitter has been increasingly utilised by mainstream television programs in order to foster interactivity between the shows' content and its audiences. 

Perhaps this is no more evident than in Q&A, a weekly ABC1 program featuring a panel of, usually, five political figures, with guests discussing current political affairs and answering questions from a studio audience.
Host of 'Q&A', Tony Jones (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)
Thanks to the Twitter hashtag function, which allows users to categorise topics (such as '#QandA'), audiences are able to interact and assert their opinions on the issues being discussed by guests on the program (Twitter 2013).

On average, more than 21,000 tweets with the 'QandA' hashtag are posted each episode, with a selection of tweets published on screen during the live program (Olivieri 2013; ABC 2013).

Although this is a sign Twitter plays a major role in facilitating political discussion between a large array of citizens, one must recognise the medium's limitations.

Larsson and Moe (2011, p. 741) do so in their aforementioned content analysis, citing a relationship suggesting the volume of tweets are dominated by a minority. 

Certainly, if microblogging platforms such as Twitter are to be seen as a trusted and legitimate arena representing the wider citizenry's views, then the mediums must be consistently and, arguably, evenly utilised by each member of the community.


ABC 2013, 'Q&A's moderated twitter feed', retrieved 2 September 2013, <>. 

Kaplan, AM & Haenlein, M 2011, 'The early bird catches the news: Nine things you should know about micro-blogging', Business Horizons, vol. 54, no. 2, pp. 105-113.

Larsson, AO & Moe, H 2011, 'Studying political microblogging: Twitter users in the 2010 Swedish election campaign', New Media and Society, vol. 14, no. 5, pp. 729-747.

Olivieri, N 2013, 'The real stars of Q&A: the faces behind the faceless tweets', The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 February, retrieved 2 September 2013, <>.

Twitter 2013, Using hashtags on Twitter, retrieved 2 August 2013, <>. 

1 comment:

  1. Rusty, I enjoyed your comments on political microblogging and think it is particularly interesting to examine its influence in the context of the current election. Twitter is certainly the strongest standout in this field and the increase in television incorporating hashtags as an advertising tool is unprecedented. I agree with Larsson and Moe (2011, p. 741) statement that ‘'Twitter contributes to a broadening of public debate: it constitutes a novel arena for mediated public communication, and the sheer number of tweets ... testifies to its use' however do commend you for highlighting its limitations.