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Title: Participation and deliberation in networked publics : the case of social network sites
Author: Rowe, Ian
ISNI:       0000 0004 5367 8130
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2015
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Online social network sites have become an important source of news and political information for many people. At the same time, these sites have transformed the way users encounter and engage with this type of content. This thesis investigates the democratic implications of this trend. Specifically, it estimates the extent to which the relationship between news consumption and political behaviour is mediated by the unique technological affordances of social network sites. It explores how, and to what extent, social network sites transform the way users encounter and engage with news content and how this, in turn, shapes their subsequent political behaviour. This thesis comprises a series of original comparative research papers. Paper 1 sets out to establish evidence of a relationship between everyday social network site use and political participation. Using nationally representative data collected by the UK Oxford Internet Institute, it establishes evidence to suggest that social network site use has the potential to increase political participation, but only when it comes to certain activities. Building on this analysis, Paper 2 estimates the extent to which social network site use indirectly influences political participation, through inadvertently exposing users to news content and information. It finds that although the everyday use of social network sites positively predicts inadvertent news and information exposure, such exposure does not translate into widespread political participation. Since a growing body of research indicates that the effects of news and information on participatory behaviour is largely channeled through interpersonal communication, Paper 3 and Paper 4 focus on the communicative processes that are typically thought to precede participation. Specifically, these papers analyse a unique set of data to investigate the extent to which social network sites shape the way users discuss the news content they consume on these sites. Paper 3 compares the deliberative quality of user comments left on social network sites with those left on news websites. Paper 4 adopts an identical methodological approach to compare the level of civility and politeness in user comments across platforms. The findings suggest that while social network sites are conducive to civil political discussion, they do not appear to encourage comments of superior deliberative quality.
Supervisor: Wroe, Andrew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: JA Political science (General)