How New Media is Opening Politics

by Kelley Johnson


Photo courtesy of The White House’s Flickr¬†showing President Obama participating in a Twitter question and answer session.

In the article Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics, we learn how to analyze new media for its effect on politics. There are five levels of analysis that the article explores, and three of these levels can be seen easily in contemporary American politics.


Individual Transformation


This concept makes politics more accessible than traditional forms of media such as news broadcasts or articles, and can change the way people understand information about politics. However, it can make people more passive in their political participation, for example by choosing to tweet about something instead of attending a rally.


An example of this transformation in the 2016 American Presidential election was the Democratic debate on November 14. Using the hashtag #demdebate, users reacted in real time to the debate, including Republican contender Donald Trump. The moderator in the debate even mentioned the online comments when she framed additional questions to the candidates. Without this forum, the average interested viewer trying to decide who to vote for would have no chance to change the focus of the questions to what they want to hear about.


Intergroup Relations


Intergroup Relations builds upon the idea that you can use the internet to facilitate communication between disparate groups. It can also be that it is even more polarizing, as many social media users have seen, being used by opposing groups to trade barbs about important political issues.


One example of intergroup relations is the use of the hashtag #lovewins, created in order to celebrate the American Supreme Court descision legalizing gay marriage throughout the country. Obviously the hastag garnered a lot of support and positive messages, but, as all hashtags, it could also be used for negative comments. It is a way to gather all commentary about the issue.


Collective Action


During the Arab Spring, new media forms such as Facebook and Twitter, came onto the scene as a meaningful way for the revolution to burn. These forms of communication can help get around an oppressive government, a way to protest without the risk of assembling, or a way to communicate with other supporters of a movement without having to be physically together. A large social media campaign can encourage people who would not have been active to come forward, once they see popular support is so large.


An example of this is contemporary American politics is the Black Lives Matter movement, including the #blacklivesmatter hashtag, which gathered support throughout the country and the world, and started a meaningful conversation about violence.


These three factors in particular can help us to examine the effect of new media on politics. As evidenced by the examples above, New Media has a great effect on politics, and will continue to have a greater effect as these variations of media permeate the mainstream and influence the course of elections, movements and activism.



Aday, S., Farrell, H., Lynch, M. et al. 2010: Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics, Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.

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