How Social Media Turn Political Mobilization Upside Down

Political Turbulence author Helen Margetts spoke at the “Society Through the Lens of the Digital” conference organised by The Volkswagen Foundation at the end of May 2017. The conference website includes an audio recording of Helen’s talk, which drew upon findings presented in the book and subsequent research. Her talk was entitled “Political Turbulence: How Social Media Turn Political Mobilization Upside Down”.

In a digital world, Helen Margetts (University of Oxford) noted, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are where we acquire political information, discuss politics, and make decisions on whether to participate in politics and increasingly where we “do” politics”. On the whole, Margetts observed, social media stimulates very small acts of political participation, drawing new people into politics. And tiny acts can scale up–the demonstrations on Egypt’s Tahrir Square or PODEMOS in Spain began as huge numbers of very small acts. But social media as political force comes with caveats. Digital political action has destabilizing implications for traditional politics and parties. Policymakers need to develop new approaches to this turbulence. Researchers, too, need better access to data if they are to understand the phenomenon. …more