Author Archives: Anders

ICA 2023 Preconference: “Comparative Digital Political Communication: Comparisons across Countries, Platforms, and Time”

On May 24th, preceding the 73rd annual ICA conference, yours truly in collaboration with Shelley Boulianne and Mireille Lalancette will arrange the ICA-affiliated “Comparative Digital Political Communication: Comparisons across Countries, Platforms, and Time” preconference. Information on the what, the how and the when follows below:

Comparative Digital Political Communication:
Comparisons across Countries, Platforms, and Time
ICA Preconference for the Political Communication Division
Wednesday, 24 May, 2023

For over a decade and in several countries and contexts, digital communication technologies such as social media have grown increasingly important in political processes like elections, public consultations, and advocacy work done by civil society actors. In addition, these technologies are important for facilitating and documenting everyday interaction among citizens across the globe as well as between political actors/groups and their supporters. Indeed, our current “fourth age” (Bennett & Pfetsch, 2018; Magin et al., 2016) or “fourth era” (Klinger & Koc-Michalska, 2022; Roemmele & Gibson, 2020) of political communication is often defined by the characteristics of various digital tools and approaches. Research on these themes have flourished, giving rise to a series of different theoretical viewpoints, methodological perspectives, and empirical starting points.

While the diversity of digital political communication research is largely beneficial, recent work has pointed out a lack of comparative approaches in dealing with issues like online political campaigning and the political participation of citizens (Boulianne, 2020; Esser & Pfetsch, 2020; Jacobs et al., 2020; Kreiss et al., 2017), mirroring tendencies discernable in the broader field of media and communication studies (Liu et al., 2020; Matassi & Boczkowski, 2021).

This preconference seeks contributions that feature one or more comparative aspects as distinctive characteristics of their respective study designs. We ask for contributions relating to comparative aspects including, but not limited to:

  • Country comparison: As political and media systems differ across countries and contexts, so can we expect differences with regards to digital political communication across countries and contexts (Vaccari & Valeriani, 2021). Submissions drawing on this variety of comparison could, for instance, employ most-similar or most-different designs (Seawright & Gerring, 2008) in order to tease out differences and similarities across borders.
  • Platform comparison: Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have different affordances or architectures (Bossetta, 2018) and feature different user groups making it necessary to adapt communication efforts to fit with each specific platform. We invite contributions to engage with the different ways that platforms are used for political communication purposes.
  • Time period comparison: As both political practices and digital communication technologies are constantly evolving and changing (Boulianne, 2020), longitudinal insights are necessary to further our knowledge (Larsson, 2021). We invite submissions that deal with overtime developments, for instance during one or several election years in one or more specific contexts.

Select abstracts from the preconference will be invited to submit full papers to a special issue of Social Science Computer Review.

Submission process

Please submit abstracts (250 words) using this form

The abstract submissions are due January 25. In the preconference abstract submission form, please be prepared to answer questions about which of the three comparison approaches are used (country, platform, time), the identity of all co-authors on your paper, and demographic questions about the corresponding/presenting author to help the organizers ensure diversity in presentations (junior vs. senior scholars, gender, country, racial and ethnic identity, etc.). 

Preconference decisions will be made by the end of February and we will require registration for the preconference by March 31 to draft the program and confirm catering (two coffee breaks, lunch). 

Venue and practical details

The preconference will be held at Toronto Metropolitan (formerly, Ryerson University). The preconference is located less than 1.6 km/1 mile away from Sheraton Centre Toronto (ICA conference hotel). Public transportation is available; otherwise, the venue is less than a 20 minute walk from the hotel. At this time, we do not plan to have an online component, but we reserve the right to alter plans if necessary.  

Questions? Please send all questions to 2023icapolcommpreconf@gmail.com.

There is no registration fee for this preconference due to the generous support of the following sponsors and organizers, presented in alphabetical order:

Centre for the study of Democratic Citizenship
Groupe de recherche en communication politique at Université Laval
Fonds d’aide à la recherche (FAR) Grant, L’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières.

Organizers

Anders Olof Larsson, Kristiania University College, Oslo, Norway.
Shelley Boulianne, ESPOL – Université Catholique de Lille, France
Mireille Lalancette, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières (Québec), Canada. 

References

Bennett, W. L., & Pfetsch, B. (2018). Rethinking Political Communication in a Time of Disrupted Public Spheres. Journal of Communication, 68(2), 243-253. https://doi.org/10.1093/joc/jqx017

Bossetta, M. (2018). The digital architectures of social media: Comparing political campaigning on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat in the 2016 U.S. election. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 95(2), 471–496. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077699018763307

Boulianne, S. (2020). Twenty years of digital media effects on civic and political participation. Communication Research, 47(7), 947-966. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650218808186

Esser, F., & Pfetsch, B. (2020). Political Communication. In D. Caramani (Ed.), Comparative Politics. Fifth edition (pp. 336-358). Oxford University Press.

Jacobs, K., Sandberg, L., & Spierings, N. (2020). Twitter and Facebook: Populists’ double-barreled gun? New Media & Society, 22(4), 611-633.https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444819893991

Klinger, U., & Koc-Michalska, K. (2022). Populism as a communication phenomenon: A cross-sectional and longitudinal comparison of political campaigning on Facebook. Mots(128). https://doi.org/10.4000/mots.29685

Kreiss, D., Lawrence, R. G., & McGregor, S. C. (2017). In Their Own Words: Political Practitioner Accounts of Candidates, Audiences, Affordances, Genres, and Timing in Strategic Social Media Use. Political Communication, 35(1), 8-31. https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.2017.1334727

Larsson, A. O. (2021). ‘Win a sweater with the PM’S face on it’ – A longitudinal study of Norwegian party Facebook engagement strategies. Information, Communication & Society, 1-20.

Liu, J., Liu, X., & Jensen, K. B. (2020). Comparative Media Studies in the Digital Age: Taking Stock, Looking Ahead — Introduction [comparative research, digital media, Internet, context, mobility, context-aware comparative communication studies]. International Journal of Communication, 14, 5754–5760. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/14548

Magin, M., Podschuweit, N., Haßler, J., & Russmann, U. (2016). Campaigning in the fourth age of political communication. A multi-method study on the use of Facebook by German and Austrian parties in the 2013 national election campaigns. Information, Communication & Society, 20(11), 1698-1719. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118x.2016.1254269

Matassi, M., & Boczkowski, P. (2021). An Agenda for Comparative Social Media Studies: The Value of Understanding Practices From Cross-National, Cross-Media, and Cross-Platform Perspectives [social media, comparative studies, theory building, cross-national, cross-media, cross-platform, history, language]. International Journal of Communication, 15.

Roemmele, A., & Gibson, R. (2020). Scientific and subversive: The two faces of the fourth era of political campaigning. New Media & Society, 22(4), 595-610. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444819893979

Seawright, J., & Gerring, J. (2008). Case selection techniques in case study research: A menu of qualitative and quantitative options. Political Research Quarterly, 61(2), 294-308.
Vaccari, C., & Valeriani, A. (2021). Outside the bubble: Social media and political participation in western democracies. Oxford University Press.

Looking for scientific assistant / vitenskaplig assistent

I’m looking for a (master’s level) student to do scientific assistant work. The interested applicant can be employed to do only step 1 as described below, but there is also the possibility for a student w basic R skills (such as those that you have after the Analyse av digital kommunikasjon 1 class) to go on to work on step 2.

Step 1

Copy links to each individual post made to TikTok by a series of Scandinavian politicians. Essentially, right-clicking on each individual post, copying the URL and pasting the copied URL into a spreadsheet (Excel, google sheets…). Sort of what you are seeing below. Alternatively, some sort of automation routine could be used – like those offered by service like Axiom , Zapier, Integromat, tray.io or Exolyt – to get the URL for each individual video.

Step 2

… requires R knowledge. Specifically, the assistant would archive data from the collected TikTok URLs (as done in step 1) using the traktok R package. The assistant would also be responsible for “tidying” and organising the resulting data sets in order to make them ready for further analysis and export.

Beyond getting insights into the research process, the assistant who opts for both steps will get applied knowledge on how to use state-of-the-art data collection tools. Similarly, if the assistant is interested, s/he could for instance use the resulting data (similar to the Facebook and Instagram data sets we looked at in the Analyse av digital kommunikasjon 1 class in his/her master’s thesis). For both steps, it is important that the interested applicant is thorough, structured and organised.

If you are interested, please send me an email as soon as possible explaining (briefly): why you are interested, if you want to do step 1 or both steps and why you think you are the most suitable person for this job.

Presenting in Lisbon

Picture from @lu_cecco on Twitter

Today I had the opportunity to present some of my ongoing work regarding what kind of political party content gets shared on Facebook at the Political Participation Networks on Facebook colloquium, hosted by ICNOVA (NOVA Institute of Communication) in Lisbon. I managed to re-use a title for a presentation based on a previous project – “Anger is an energy”. For various reasons (Reviewer 2), I could not use that particular title for that previous project once it was published – I hope to be able to do so once this current project finds a home in a journal somewhere. Fingers crossed.

Looking for Ph. D. Candidates

Kristiania University College logo

Here at the Department of Communication at Kristiania University College in Oslo, Norway, I’m looking for Ph. D. candidates to work on the Scandinavian Political Communication During the Pandemic project. Two fully funded positions are available. In short, we will use social media trace data (from CrowdTangle [Facebook and Instagram] and Twitter) to try and uncover the different ways that various governmental agencies and other political actors communicated to and with the public during the covid 19-pandemic. We might also want to expand the project to other types of data, but these sources will be our main focus.

Given the different approaches of the three Scandinavian countries, we will specifically feature a comparative angle for this project. The ad for the positions is available here. Please note that due to the comparison between the three Scandinavian countries, working knowledge of either Danish, Norwegian or Swedish is necessary. Moreover, given the nature of the project, it is necessary with experience in quantitative social scientific methods. I am thinking here primarily about basic statistics (if you’ve taken a master’s degree in media and communication studies or something similar, you’ve probably had this kind of class). Successful candidates should be able to demonstrate – for instance, via their master’s theses – their skill in using such techniques. Familiarity with software like Tableau, SPSS and/or Jamovi helps, and experience in using programming languages like R or Python is a plus.

Please drop me an email if you have any questions – the deadline for this is on September 15th, and the successful candidates should start their journey towards a Ph.D. no later than December 1st.

“Win a sweater with the PMs face on it”

Succeeding in raising engagement is key for anyone who wishes to be seen online – perhaps especially for political actors. However, such engagement or indeed interactivity can be demanding for politicians and parties since there is an increased risk of losing message control. In ‘Win a sweater with the PM’S face on it’ – A longitudinal study of Norwegian party Facebook engagement strategies, I use the theory of controlled interactivity (as defined by Stromer-Galley and Baldwin-Philippi) to discuss how the Facebook engagement strategies of Norwegian political actors have varied over time. The abstract reads as follows:

Receiving Facebook post engagement – such as likes, comments and shares – is crucial in order to succeed online, perhaps especially for political actors. However, online engagement can also be hazardous, as it potentially strips the original poster of control over their messages. Previous work has shown that political actors have been rather unwilling to encourage interaction from their online supporters. However, research has also indicated a need to assess the influence of Facebook in this regard. Building on the theory of controlled interactivity, the study presented here details what is referred to as Facebook engagement strategies among Norwegian political parties on Facebook between 2009 and 2019. Combining quantitative and qualitative approaches in order to compare party and follower activity in relation to the aforementioned engagement varieties, the main findings indicate that parties and followers do not necessarily seek to interact at the same time. Furthermore, tendencies towards gamification, where parties direct user attention towards online quizzes and raffles instead of towards deliberation and political discussion, can be discerned.

Examples of posts featuring comment requests.

The three posts visible above serve as examples of posts where parties ask for engagement in terms of comments. Comparably early posts featuring comment engagement cues encourage readers to comment on specific political themes or topics. For these posts, parties will typically offer to answer the posted questions in the comments. Section 1 in the image above depicts a typical example of such a post from the Progress Party, linking to a YouTube video where a party representative presents budget suggestions, asking for feedback by means of comments to the Facebook post. The use of video services external to Facebook is also rather typical of this early period of Facebook use by political parties – overtime, Facebook native services have largely overtaken their external competitors when it comes to posting video on the specified platform. A tendency of contests and quiz-like competitions with party merchandise prizes has already been noted. This tendency is mirrored also in sections 2 and 3 from the image. Section 2 provides an early example of such content – here, the Socialist Left Party presents a giveaway of t-shirts featuring a ‘Heller kolje enn olje’ (‘I’d rather have haddock than oil’) print, pitting two core Norwegian industries against each other. Finally, section 3 features an example of the Conservative Party Advent calendar from the 2019 holiday season. Here, we are asked to guess the name of the first female Norwegian Minister of Defence. A correct answer gives us the chance to win a garment with the PMs face on it – a t-shirt this time, rather than a sweater as in another example discussed in the paper. This tendency of almost gamified political communication is visible also elsewhere in the material.

The paper is available open access at Information, Communication & Society.

Just in time for summer

nms

I just received word that my follow-up study to Picture-perfect populism: Tracing the rise of European populist parties on Facebook has been accepted for publication in New Media & Society. In this recently accepted paper – entitled The rise of Instagram as a tool for political communication – A longitudinal study of European political parties and their followers – I build on the findings of the aforementioned Facebook-focused paper and provide insights into the uses of Instagram by European political parties. The abstract reads as follows:

“Featuring a longitudinal, structural study of European party and citizen activity on Instagram between 2012 and 2018, this paper outlines the overarching changes in the ways that Instagram has been employed for political party communication. Differentiating between populist and non-populist political parties, the results indicate that much like for other platforms such as Facebook, the former category of parties enjoy higher amounts of citizen engagement than their non-populist competitors. Detailing the uses of different types of posts by the two types of political actors, the study provides insights into how political parties have adopted and used Instagram from 2012 and onwards.”

Much like with the previous paper, I make good use of the brilliant Wes Anderson Palettes package available for R – see if you can guess which movie palette I used here. If you are interested, you can find the accepted version of the paper at academia.edu or at ResearchGate. Having studied the growth of populism on both Facebook and Instagram, I guess I need to look at Twitter next?

Virtual Reykjavik

Much like everything else these days, the 2021 NordMedia Conference which was supposed to take place in Reykjavik has decided to go virtual. Which means that this year, I will be virtually involved in three presentations:

  • Askanius, T.Kaun, A.Brock, M. & Larsson, A.O. (2021). Violent misogyny in ‘the most feminist country in the world’: Discursive connections between male supremacy and white supremacy in Sweden.
  • Kalsnes, B. & Larsson, A.O. (2021). Going local on social media: Norwegian parliamentarians’ use of social media during the 2019 local election.
  • Gustafsson, N.Holmberg, N.Weinryb, N.Gullberg, C., & Larsson, A.O. (2021). Emotional Expressions on Swedish Fundraising Organizations’ Social Media Pages, 2010-2020: The Attention Economy of Emojis.

Papers for ICA 2021











Given the ongoing pandemic, the 2021 ICA conference will be held online – hopefully by 2022 we will be back to physical conferences… Anyways, my contributions this year will be as follows:

Kruschinski, S., Hassler, J., Bene, M., Ceron, A., Fenoll, V., Larsson, A.O., Magin, M., Schlosser, K. & Wurst, A-K (2021). Keep them engaged! A 12-country investigation of content features provoking user engagement on parties’ Facebook posts in the 2019 European Elections. Paper accepted for presentation at the virtual 71st Annual ICA Conference, may 27-31.

Boulianne, S. & Larsson, A.O. (2021). Engagement with Candidate Posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook during the 2019 Election. Paper accepted for presentation at the virtual 71st Annual ICA Conference, may 27-31.

Schwartz, S., Larsson, A.O. and Nelimarkka, M. (2021). Populist Platform Strategies: A comparative study of social media campaigning by Nordic right-wing populist parties. Paper accepted for presentation at the virtual 71st Annual ICA Conference, may 27-31.