About this Research Topic
Mass media have always played an important role in the socio-political lives of people. Relationships between mass media and democratic processes have secured the attention of Communication scholars since the publication of the People’s Choice in 1944. With the rapid rise of digital media during the past two decades, the complexities of these relationships have become manifold. A major event that forced the world to give attention to these relationships was the US Presidential Elections of 2016 during which it was claimed, and not without evidence, that digital media were used extensively to influence public opinion and that methods used were ethically dubious. Similarly, the recent rise in the phenomenon of fake news and digital disinformation have also made it imperative for researchers to understand better their effects on democratic and the governance processes across the world. Digital Media giants such as Facebook and Google are alleged to be influencing public opinion and democratic processes without appropriate checks and balance which some argue made media such as newspapers, television and radio more responsible. Emergence of digital media platforms has also seemingly distributed power to users who can now themselves engage with mass audience and exercise degrees of influence over democratic processes and governance practices. Manuel Castell’s idea of ‘mass self-communication’ and his concept of ‘media counter power’ as reflected in movements such as the Arab Spring of 2011; the Occupy Movement that began in 2011; the Anna Hazare Movement against corruption in India during 2011 and numerous Twitter revolutions that are taking place across the world provide media researchers with new issues to research.
Specifically, governments across the world are trying to engage with their citizens through digital media platforms. Political leaders now utilise social media platforms in order to communicate and comment. Recently, the Prime Minister of India tried to engage with people through Tweets in different languages. Political leaders receive numerous messages daily. They have teams of communication professionals to respond to these messages. These professionals also use different social media platforms on behalf of their employers and create messages intended to influence public opinion. How such messages affect the nature and quality of public debates needs to be explored further. Social media platforms are being increasingly used across the world for receiving and sharing news. People are expressing opinions, sharing perspectives and engaging in political debates on social media. However, it is a well-known fact that these exchanges are not balanced. In developing countries like India, where illiteracy or digital divide are still present, expecting equality in democratic debates on digital platforms may not be reasonable. There are some people with more resources and expertise to exploit the digital media platforms to their benefit than others. Lack of proficiency in use of digital media platforms, coupled with the factors already mentioned previously, negatively affects the quality of government-citizen engagements in these countries. In absence of proper research evidence one can only guess how these government-citizen engagements through digital media platforms are working. Recent evidences from India, where as soon as something untoward happens, the first thing that the government bans is the internet because there have been numerous instances where the digital media platforms have been used to spread false information leading to serious law and order consequences. Similarly, there have been instances where these platforms have been used constructively to bring about positive changes in the fields of agriculture, public health and education. We need to explore these dichotomies further and understand the motives of the users more clearly. Researchers also need to explore the ways in which these platforms may be used for improving the quality of democratic processes and public debates.
The emergence of digital media platforms has also given a new impetus to the idea of participatory democracy and has opened new avenues through which citizens can engage with their governments. Governments are also responding and are engaging with citizens through various digital media platforms. One argument that is used by eulogizers’ participatory democracy through digital media platforms is that it will empower previously marginalised peoples. There are barriers to this, such as lack of media literacy, accessibility of digital media platforms, lack of willingness on the part of the citizens and myriad of other issues. There is a growing concern about the power of social media in spreading disinformation and influencing public opinion and thus making the digital societies a place of mistrust and scepticism.
This Research Topic seeks to understand the consequences of digital media on people’s participation in political and governance processes especially in South Asian regions and would like to analyze how the early internet once considered as a great equalizer in political power mechanisms is now amplifying political pre-web dynamics in an open and uncontrolled space. It would like to explore the new challenges of collaboration and integration faced by political and governance institutions with digital forms of information and communication in the light of the fact that – “technology is not going away. Democracy must learn to live with it.” It would like to encourage empirical studies developed in western contexts with a focus to explore the issues of media governance in South Asian regions.
We welcome Original Research and Review Articles in the relevant areas including, for example:
• Governance through digital media platforms in transitional democracies
• Revisiting participatory democracies in the context of digital media platforms
• Nature of online participatory democracies: Traditional vs. Online Participation
• Challenges and opportunities of participatory democracy and governance in developing economies
• Online communities and interpersonal dynamics
• Multi-stakeholder governance processes to bring the stakeholders together to participate in the dialogue, decision-making, implementation of solutions to common problems or goals
• Influence of digital media on political participation through cognitive elaboration - a process of forming associations between new information and prior knowledge, information gain and political debate and discussion
• Use of digital media platforms to engage partisan individuals and to extend their political reach both online and offline
• Conceptual and empirical understanding of media governance in a South Asian context
We encourage conceptual articles as well as empirical and comparative analysis, case studies, quantitative approaches that are theoretically informed.
Keywords: Digital Media, Political and Governance Institutions, Electoral Processes, People Representation, Digital Disinformation, Democracy
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.