About this Research Topic
Increasing numbers of citizens employ digital media for their news and to participate in political discussions or events, with young adults more likely to engage in political activity online than any other way. In turn, digital media are routinely employed to initiate or support popular movements and protests across the world. Notwithstanding the success of online platforms in advancing emancipatory movements and democratic values, digital media have been less successful in translating uprisings into political policies or institutions. At the same time, the data harvested from them presents significant threats to privacy. In addition, digital media are systematically exploited by authoritarian regimes to monitor, surveil and repress. Moreover, the use of digital media has been linked to increases in political polarization and ideological extremism. The COVID-19 pandemic has expanded and accelerated the use of digital platforms. President Trump’s extensive use of, and recent “war “on Twitter, underlines both the significance and quickly changing terrain of the politics of digital media.
Digital media have a steadily rising impact on social and political life. Yet the impacts of this information technology are varied, quickly changing, and largely unsettled. In turn, digital media are growing in variety and influence, and undergo frequent modifications and transformations. The goal of this Research Topic is to chart the political uses and impacts of digital media at the local, state, national and international levels. Manuscripts employing quantitative, qualitative and interpretive methodologies are welcome from across the fields of political science. Interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged.
The following questions represent but do not exhaust themes of interest;
1) How has the COVID-19 pandemic expanded and accelerated an already precipitous migration of social and political life from the face-to-face and physical to the remote and virtual? What are the prospects for political life—as well as the impact on economic, social and education sectors—of the heightened and growing dependence on digital media?
2) To what extent and in which ways do digital media impact the political commitments and behavior of citizens? Is it a gateway to increased political activism or a substitute for it, engendering ‘slactivism’ and political hobbyism? How and when do digital politics stimulate, supplement, corrupt, complement or crowd out more traditional forms of political participation?
3) Digital media vastly expands the scope and accessibility of diverse forms of knowledge, values, perspectives and opinions. To what extent do digital media helpfully inform and enlighten citizens, and to what extent do they contribute to misinformation and divisive behavior? Do digital media widen perspectives and enhance diversity, or ensconce citizens in ‘filter bubbles’ that exacerbate confirmation bias, heighten political polarization and feed ideological extremism?
4) How are digital media employed and exploited by statespeople and regimes, and how do digital media impact campaigning, legislation, judicial and executive rule?
5) Digital media have a steadily rising impact on social and political life. Do digital media increase political turbulence, heightening unpredictability and instability?
6) How can and should rights to privacy be preserved amidst the widespread harvesting of data from digital media?
7) Cyberspace is a de facto public realm. But it is largely owned and operated by private businesses. What are the political impacts of and responses to the growing economic and political power of digital media corporations such as Facebook, Google and Amazon?
8) What are the political repercussions of an ‘attention economy’ facilitated by digital platforms, and what are the political responses to it? In what ways are digital media employed to manipulate the behavior of platforms users, and does this constitute a threat to personal agency? To what extent does increasing user dependence and engineered addiction to digital media constitute a threat to democratic politics? What is the political sociology of resistance to the attention economy?
Keywords: Digital Media, Cyberspace, Social Media, Political Life, Misinformation, Regulation, Privacy, Power
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.