Tentative steps towards interaction: The use of the Internet in the British European Parliament Election 2009

This source preferred by Darren Lilleker

Authors: Lilleker, D. and Jackson, N.

http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?issn=1066-2243

Journal: Internet Research

Volume: 20

ISSN: 1066-2243

Some commentators suggest that that there is a sea-change in both how the Internet is used, and its impact during campaigns. This interest has been fuelled by Barack Obama’s use of the Internet in the 2008 U.S. Presidential elections. Obama utilised the potential of Web 2.0 applications to fundamentally change the campaigning process, by interacting with citizens and encouraging participation (Gordon-Murnane 2009, Greengard 2009, Lipton 2009). This use of the Internet provides a potential model for how British political parties, and individual politicians, could reach out to disaffected citizens during the 2009 European Parliament elections. Such a model based on dialogue, building relationships and engaging citizens in meaningful discussion could potentially rebuild trust between elector and elected during a time of political crisis. This article firstly outlines a conceptual framework for assessing how the Web 2.0 tools might be used to encourage interactivity, and in whose interest the Internet might work. We then outline our methodology for assessing the interactive nature of how parties and candidates used the Internet. Lastly, we analyse which parties and candidates used Web 2.0 applications during the 2009 European Parliamentary elections campaign most effectively to encourage public dialogue finding only tentative moves towards more participatory modes of political communication.

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Authors: Jackson, N. and Lilleker, D.G.

Journal: Internet Research

Volume: 20

Issue: 5

Pages: 527-544

ISSN: 1066-2243

DOI: 10.1108/10662241011084103

Purpose: This study seeks to discover whether the existence of Web 2.0 applications introduced a more interactive approach to British parties and candidates' use of the Internet during the 2009 European Parliament elections. Design/methodology/approach: Research data were based on content analysis of the web sites of British candidates and parties during the 2009 European Parliament elections. The conceptual framework assesses whether there is evidence of a monologic versus dialogic approach, and normalisation versus equalisation between parties. Findings: The paper finds that parties were not using Web 2.0 as a strategic device. The party list system meant that parties were twice as likely as candidates to use Web 2.0 applications and, overall, there is weak evidence of a third way of ebb and flow. Continuing the experience of previous elections there is evidence of a predominantly monologic approach; however, the debate is no longer simply between normalisation versus equalisation, a more sophisticated approach suggests a third way, where political campaigning has been altered. While the overall levels of interactivity and dialogue are not high, there is some evidence of the development of a Web 1.5 sphere offering more interaction, but within a controlled environment. This study notes that ideology is a factor, where it is the right wing parties which are most likely to adopt interactivity. Originality/value: Previous literature on elections in general, and the European Parliament elections specifically, suggest that in the UK the Internet is primarily used for monologic communication and supporting the normalisation thesis. This study suggests, within an era of Web 2.0, a slight refinement to this interpretation. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

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