‘Did you read about that bloody politician in the papers?’ Mediated political events and how they penetrate everyday discussion online: an analysis of three ‘non-political’ online spaces.
Start date: 3 November 2011
A talkative electorate is one important measure of a healthy democracy. Widespread access to the web in the UK with its plethora of discussion forums provides abundant stimulus, space and opportunity to engage in conversation. Yet there is widespread commentary about a decline in civic engagement and much evidence suggests that for many politics and talking about it is marginalized and avoided. Our study is interested in if, when and how political talk emerges in everyday life, and what this tells us about the character and dynamics of civic culture and the media in contemporary Britain. We have deliberately focused away from overtly political online spaces in order to capture the everydayness embedded-ness of talk. This paper draws on data from a large quantitative and qualitative analysis of three popular general interest UK-based online discussion forums over the course of a 10 month period (September 2010– July 2011). The following questions are asked in the context of the burgeoning online spaces where people talk about their everyday reality: how does the architecture of the online forum impact on the amount, nature and normative quality of political discussion that takes place? To what extent and under what circumstances does everyday online talk become political? How does such talk respond to political events, political communication and media coverage of politics? And for us, most interestingly of all, how do individuals make connections between their political talk and their everyday experiences of life?