About this Research Topic
This Research Topic addresses the impact of social media and virtual meetings on democratic institutions and democratic policymaking. The aim is to develop new and valuable knowledge about how democratic institutions are responding to new communication technology.
Social media and the increased use of virtual meetings represent a changing environment for the entire public sector. In democracies, we observe new preconditions for interaction and collaboration, mobilisation, policymaking, participation and inclusion, bureaucracy, and for the role of politicians. The topic focus is to explore how, and to what extent, social media and virtual meetings challenge and lead to changes in democratic institutions and democratic policymaking.
Social media have increased the possibility of constant evaluations and critiques and demand rapid responses from procedure-oriented democracies. Professional communicators tend to get a more dominant role and are, together with the politicians, increasingly tailoring their communication activities to social media. The social media foster challenges which affect the politicians’ role and the workings of local/regional/national government, such as being constantly online providing answers, providing immediate reactions to problems, the ability to ignore harassment, loss of control of narratives, and coping with narrowed interest-based demands. Social media may however also serve as a tool for democratic innovations, citizen engagement and a broader inclusion of interests. How are governments dealing with the challenges and possibilities offered by social media? To what degree do the “social media engine” lead to changes in government policies, the role of politicians and the role of bureaucrats? To what degree do the social media lead to new forms of civil society and citizen inclusion?
Moreover, governments worldwide have experienced an explosion in the use of virtual political meetings due to Covid-19 measures. For governments, virtual meetings have benefits like cost efficiency, it makes meetings and negotiations easy to arrange, it may help increase the interaction between stakeholders and may lead to broader inclusion. Distance is not a problem. On the other hand, virtual political meetings may lead to trust-problems and less consensus because of the lack of informal conversations; more shallow and ‘different’ discussions in political decision-making; exclusion because of lack of access to technology/technological competence etc. Does the use of virtual meetings lead to changes in collaboration, participation and inclusion, the role of ICT workers in bureaucracy, and the role of politicians?
Questions relevant to the research topic include but are not limited to:
1) How are governments responding to the new demands and opportunities created by social media communication?
2) Do social media challenge government internal policymaking and policies? And if so, how?
3) How, and to what extent do social media challenge the established role of politicians?
4) How is the increased use of social media influencing collaboration and deliberation within government?
5) How, and to what extent, do social media challenge government bureaucracies? Do they challenge the neutrality of civil servants?
6) How is the democratic inclusion of civil society interests affected by social media and/or digital platforms?
7) To what extent do virtual political meetings provide potentials and challenges for internal government policymaking and policies?
8) How is the increased use of virtual meetings influencing collaboration and deliberation within government?
9) How is the democratic inclusion of citizens and civil society interests affected by virtual meetings?
We plan to open this Research Topic for submissions in autumn 2021.
Alongside this collection of articles, the main Topic Editor (Professor Hilde Bjørnå) is seeking interested collaborators to apply for the following Horizon Europe Call. Feel free to contact Hilde directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Keywords: Social media, virtual meetings, political roles, citizen inclusion, bureaucracy roles, government political communication, policies, quality of discussions
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