IDP2013 (VI): Politics

Notes from the 9th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Big Data: Challenges and Opportunities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 25-26 June 2013. More notes on this event: idp2013.

Moderator: Ana Sofía Cardenal. Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC).

Opening new windows: decision-making centralization and online interaction in CIU, ERC and PSC.
Marc Esteve Del Valle. Doctorando del Programa de Sociedad de la Información y el Conocimiento de la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) – Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3); Rosa Borge Bravo. Profesora Agregada de Ciencia Política de la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) – Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3)

What is the use of the Internet that parties do to “open” themselves and interact with the citizenry.

There are two approaches to ICTs and politics:

  • normalization: nothing is changing, parties will adopt ICTs for their traditional purposes, for their “politics as usual”. The citizenry nor adopts ICTs to participate more or whatever.
  • new mobilization: citizens can initiate their own campaigns thanks to several tools available online. These campaings, though, would be bound to parties, that is, it’s partisans that initiate campaigns to support parties. Networ party (Heidar & Saglie, 2003), cyberparty (Margetts, 2006), citizen initiate campaigns (Gibson, 2013), etc.

Reasons why parties would use ICTs: external context, inner characteristics of the party, position in the electoral market, contagion, etc.

H1: centralized and highly hierarchical parties have less interaction instruments in their websites (centralization index by K. Janda, 1980)
Data show that the three parties do not difer very much in centralization, and they do not difer either in matters of windows of interaction. Thus, evidence that centralization leads to more interaction is very weak.

H2: the degree of centralization does not seem to be related with the windows of interaction that PSC, CiU and ERC provide on their Facebook pages
Concerning the web 2.0, there neither are many differences. Indeed, the thesis of the contagion is very powerful, as there seems to be a pattern where a party initiates a certain activity and the rest copy it not long after.

Though parties showed different strategies and different levels of participation on Facebook, it cannot be stated that this was due to centralization differences. It is very likely, though, that is the state of political news or the political agenda that better shapes the strategies and interactions on Facebook.

To tweet or not to tweet? Social networking strategies in Catalan local governments
Joan Balcells, Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC); Albert Padró-Solanet, Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC); Iván Serrano, Researcher, IN3

How can be Twitter used in the context of e-Government? What are the factors of adoption of Twitter by local governments? How is Twitter used by local governments?

Logistic regression on the characteristics of the 947 municipalities in Catalonia was performed to tell the reasons for Twitter adoption. On the other hand, Twitter was mined to retrieve tweets by twitting municipalities and be able to tell the different usages of Twitter by them.

Problem: what (or which one) is the “official” Twitter account in a local government? The more representative one was chosen.

Assumption: if local governments are rationals, they will be on Twitter if the benefits are bigger than the costs of using Twitter.

Characteristics like size of the government, level of e-government, population, public employees expenditure per inhabitant, level of education of the municipality, socio-political mobilization or a change in government in the 2011 elections impact positively in probability of opening a Twitter account. The last issue, a change of party in office, is especially relevant, which stresses the point that in local governments leadership still plays an important role.

Concerning performance, measurements were tweets per week, RT per week, mentions, etc. Larger cities were the ones that performed better on Twitter.

A survey was addressed to Twitter managers asking what was Twitter for. There is major consensus on Twitter for informing citizens. But there is no consensus on interaction with citizens. Again, there is agreemen that Twitter is good for the local administration and for citizens, but there is some level of conflict when asked whether it is good or not for the public employee.

Accounts were grouped in three clusters according to the perception of conflict or not, and the use of Twitter for information or for engagement. And performance is related with perception: if one thinks Twitter is good, the account will do well.

A caveat is that having a Twitter account has consequences for the inner organization of the local government.

Casual Politics: From slacktivism to emergent movements and pattern recognition
Ismael Peña-López. Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC).


9th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2013)