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Social Media and Political Campaigning: Changing Terms of Engagement?

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This paper develops a way for analyzing the structure of campaign communications within Twitter. The structure of communication affordances creates opportunities for a horizontal organization power within Twitter interactions. However, one cannot infer the structure of interactions as they materialize from the formal properties of the technical environment in which the communications occur. Consequently, the paper identifies three categories of empowering communication operations that can occur on Twitter: Campaigns can respond to others, campaigns can retweet others, and campaigns can call for others to become involved in the campaign on their own terms. The paper operationalizes these categories in the context of the 2015 U.K. general election. To determine whether Twitter is used to empower laypersons, the profiles of each account retweeted and replied to were retrieved and analyzed using natural language processing to identify whether an account is from a political figure, member of the media, or some other public figure. In addition, tweets and retweets are compared with respect to the manner key election issues are discussed. The findings indicate that empowering uses of Twitter are fairly marginal, and retweets use almost identical policy language as the original campaign tweets.




Jensen, M. J. (2017). Social Media and Political Campaigning: Changing Terms of Engagement? International Journal of Press/Politics, 22(1), 23–42.

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