IDP2014 (XII). Internet and politics (II)

Notes from the 10th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: A decade of transformations, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 3-4 July 2014. More notes on this event: idp2014.

Charis: Joan Balcells Padullés. Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC).

Are Social Media changing party politics? Brokers among the members of the Catalan Parliament Twitter Network.
Marc Esteve i del Valle, PhD student on the Knowledge and Information Society Programme at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). Researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3); Rosa Borge Bravo; Associate Professor of Political Science at the UOC and researcher at the IN3

When looking at the political usage of Twitter in political parties, it is noticeable that it’s not the leaders but other members of the party the most active on Twitter. Are we before the appearance of ‘brokers’ that bridge different political clusters?

H1: Given the high density of the Catalan parliamentarians’ Twitter network, its high reciprocity, its clustering structure and the particular working milieu that it reflects, we expect the appearance of structural holes and therefore brokers.

H2: The Catalan parliamentarians who are young, highly educated, highly active on the Internet and parliamentarian works and belong to the ruling party, are more likely to be the bridges of the Catalan parliamentarians’ twitter network.

The dependent variable was the degree of centrality in the network, and as independent variables there were many: socio-economic, political, about your personal network, etc.

Results showed that the Parliament is a not very dense network, but also that it is a close one. It’s a closed and affiliated universe. 26 MP where considered as being brokers. They are not leaders of their respective parties and, indeed, they often neither belong to the mainstream ideology of the party.

We can cluster all the MPs in 4 communities, whose composition changes along time (January to March, 2014).

H1 is corroborated. But H2 is not. For being followed is important to have a blog, to speak a lot at the plenary and to hold a MP position, but there is no relationship with socio-demographic characteristics, no official role at the Parliament, no interventions to the commissions, no tweet intensity, no incumbency, no Internet use.

La desrepresentación política. Potencialidad de Internet en el proceso legislativo.
Francisco Jurado Gilabert, Jurista e Investigador en el Laboratorio de Ideas y Prácticas Políticas de la Universidad Pablo de Olavide. Doctorando en Filosofía del Derecho y Política en el IGOP, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona.

We have a context where even the voters think that the Congress or the Senate represents the people… despite the fact that the Law says that it is so. On the other hand, there are other institutions of “direct” participation, which are not actually such, as they require some approvals or backing from the representative institutions.

Political representation is forced: one cannot chose not to be represented by the Parliament (e.g. as one can choose a lawyer to represent them in a trial). Elections are not about being represented or not, but only about somewhat influencing who is going to represent the whole citizenry. Why is it so? Why is the citizenry forced to be represented? There do not seem to be solid reasons to be politically supervised and represented. The only reason being the incapability of gathering everyone together, at the same time and at the same place for decision-making.

And it gets worse: the laws that frame representation are increasingly used as barriers against the entrance of competitors. It is difficult to create a new party or to create a new political platform. Pitkin’s dimensions of representation (1967) are systematically violed: there is no authorization or empowerment, no accountability, no suitability, no symbolic dimension (or just a little bit), no substantive representation of interests.

We need an act of de-representation, of demanding representation back. Maybe not the whole time, but on demand, when it is needed.

And there are many ICT tools that come very handy for that purpose.

La identidad digital en procesos de democracia electrónica. La desastrosa experiencia de la firma electrónica basada en certificados, en mifirma.com
Javier Peña, Presidente de MiFirma.com.; Ignacio Alamillo Domingo, Investigador del GRISC, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

MiFirma.com [MySignature] is a non-profit organization to collect signatures to promote certain initiatives. The difference with other petitioning sites is that at MiFirma signatures are electronic and thus legally binding. For instance, formally and officially signing political initiatives.

Setting up the platform is easily in technological terms than in legal terms. One needs and administrative authorisation, the platform has to accomplish some (non-justified) requirements and restrictions on the time of e-signature to be used, etc.

10th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2014)

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