The role of Twitter in the Greek Political Landscape

TitleThe role of Twitter in the Greek Political Landscape
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Gioltzidou, G.
Affiliation (1st Author)Ph.D candidate
Section or WGPolitical Communication Research Section
DateFri 28 June
Slot CodePOLF3a
Slot Code (Keyword)POLF3a
Time of Session14:00-15:30
RoomHG22
Session TitleNew media, new politics?
Submission ID5583
Abstract

In the last few years, Greece is going though one of the most deep and intense crises of its history. As a result of the financial crisis and the deepening recession, the country has entered an entirely new era that affected all areas of life. One area that has changed dramatically is that of politics. Within a period of nine months, Greece had four governments and two elections. Traditional political parties and dominant political players have seen their approval rating drop massively. New politicians entered the scene while some of the traditional political players saw massive electoral losses and sought ways to reconfigure their own political presence. In a context protracted crisis, the use of social networking sites has emerged as a significant form of political engagement for many Greeks. It was at this level that through social media, and especially Twitter, political players altered the way of their political participation and interaction with their constituents. For example, riding on a wave of popular discontent, a new political party was launched through the social media and achieved remarkable success. In a short time of 9 weeks existence, the fast-rising party “Indepentent Greeks” gathered 11 percent of the vote, reached the respectable fourth place at the May election and posed a serious threat to traditional political parties. This paper has collected Twitter data from the period between the two elections in Greece (6 May and 17 June 2012) and has mapped the various political actors tweeting using the hastag #ekloges (elections). Six questions are examined: How many MPs turned to social media? What do traditional politicians do on Twitter? Are they constantly active? How are their contributions received by the Twittersphere? What does this mean for the political landscape? Is this disintermediation of politics leading to new kinds of political conduct? The paper applies two theoretical frameworks: Bourdieu’s (1991) analytical concept of field theory, and Castells’ (2009) theory of power in the network society. The findings include an analysis of the shifting political landscape as it emerges from Twitter, suggesting that while power shifts are occurring, and new forms of communicative capital, especially affective ones, favour new players, there are several continuities with some traditional forms remaining, especially those associated with the professionalization of political communication.  The study comes to the conclusion that the significance of these shifts and the extent to which they can be considered more or less compatible with democratic politics. In the end, it is argued, Twitter is not really radicalizing the public sphere (c.f. Dahlberg, 2007), although it does introduce new and important elements in public-political communication.

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