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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Using Technology, Building Democracy: How Political Campaigns' Uses of Digital Media Reflect Shifting Norms of Citizenship
by Baldwin-Philippi, Jessica, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2012, 264; 3508269
Abstract (Summary)

As new technologies are becoming increasingly common to the creation, circulation, and reception of political messages in general, the relationships between conceptions of citizenship and media technologies are a vital space of inquiry. Research concerning the intersection of technology and politics is rapidly growing, and has provided much insight into voters' patterns of technology use and the content of campaigns' messages across media technologies, but the ways that digital tools and their content are tied to the norms of political participation and citizenship with political texts remain unanalyzed. This dissertation therefore investigates how political campaigns are using digital media to create and circulate campaign messages, and how these digital messages articulate norms and definitions of participatory citizenship that are currently functioning within a contemporary democratic public.

In order to undertake this analysis, I examine a host of campaign texts created during the 2010 midterm election cycle, their technologies of circulation, and their practices of creation. Thus, this research combines methods of textual analysis with ethnographic participant observation within a federal-level election, and in-depth interviews with campaign staffers and political consultants.

In doing so, I describe four digitally-mediated phenomena as points of rupture in traditional practices of campaign communication that hold implications for current accounts of citizenship: (1) Digital texts such as microsites, fact-checks, and blogs feature political information that is detailed, contextual, and contingent, and encourages citizens to approach political information from a skeptical perspective; (2) An increased effort to engage citizens in the digital circulation of campaign texts implies new publics of campaign messages and enables forms of action that are simultaneously empowering and intensely constrained; (3) The emergence of a new genre of social media content highlights behind the scenes and digital retail politics emphasizes mobilizing citizens rather than informing or persuading them; (4) Changing practices of how campaigns exert control over public discussion provide novel opportunities to engage in public deliberation, debate, and criticism, but simultaneously limit the scope of policies around which such debate can take place. Collectively, these practices show opportunities for new and shifting forms of citizenship.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hariman, Robert
Commitee: Boczkowski, Pablo, Ettema, James
School: Northwestern University
Department: Communication Studies
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 73/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Multimedia Communications, Political science, Web Studies
Keywords: Citizenship, Digital media, Elections, Political campaigns, Rhetoric
Publication Number: 3508269
ISBN: 978-1-267-33924-9
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