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Session Overview
PaperSession-23: Social Media & Politics 2
Friday, 04/Oct/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Location: P413
(cap. 54)

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11:00am - 11:20am


Cornel Sandvoss

University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom

This paper explores the interplay between participatory culture, social networking, and political fandom aiming to assess the extent to which the rise of fan-like engagements in politics on social media platforms fuels populist discourses and the associated decline in trust in platforms and democratic systems.

Building on recent work exploring the blurring of boundaries between popular and political communication the paper documents the growing ‘fanization of politics’ (Gray et al. 2017) through the study of populist political fandom in Britain focusing on the British Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. In its explicit focus on the Other in form of political and economic elites – reflected in Labour’s 2017 election theme Corbyn’s leadership can be described as populist. At the same time Corbyn enjoys exceptional support and loyalty among many supporters and party members who display a deeply affective bond to their leader.

Based on the thematic analysis of a six-months Twitter corpus containing ‘Corbyn’ or ‘Labour’ in 2019 including both tweets and the content of external links, the study identifies practices of textual selection and key themes in meaning-making processes in political fandom, including (interpretive) control, belonging, nostalgia, Othering, and exclusion/delegitimization.

11:20am - 11:40am


Rebecca Venema, Katharina Lobinger

USI – Università della Svizzera italiana, Switzerland

A broad body of literature has described contemporary societies as “surveillance societies” or “surveillance cultures” and has expanded on the implications of an increasing “datafication” of society. To date, little attention has been paid to the role of visual data and their analysis in these processes. However, visual data and advancing algorithmic and facial recognition tools can provide particularly rich insights, that may imply both, important potentials and possible tensions.

The contribution uses the case of controversial police investigations after the 2017 G20-summit to discuss intersections of datafication, dataveillance and visual communication and to provide insight into how different authorities and stakeholders legitimate and contest the collection of visual data and their algorithmic analysis in the political and public realm. Therefore a qualitative content and discourse analysis of news media articles, tweets, experts’ reports, police statements and minutes of parliamentary debates and committee hearings was conducted. Findings indicate that concrete practices of visual data collection and analysis remained obscure and a critical blind spot in the general media coverage. In turn, they triggered heated debates in the political realm and in specialized media coverage in which trust played a striking key role. Police authorities characterized visual data and algorithmic tools as a "new standard of proof" and thus as particularly powerful, objective and specifically trustworthy. However, indiscriminate practices of visual data collection and analysis also triggered fundamental concerns about the role and the trustworthiness of police authorities in datafied societies.

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