Category Archives: Research

Baking, Skiing – Governing – Exploring the popularity of personalized posts on Norwegian political Instagram accounts

In this DECIDIS Open Lecture, Anders Olof Larsson (Westerdals, Oslo) will present his research about politicians on Instagram.

When?
March 21, 2017 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Where?
Auditorium 3
Everybody is welcome!

The Internet is sometimes pointed to as having increased tendencies of personalization in politics. While studies have gauged the degree to which political actors focus on their private or personal sides rather than on their more official or political sides in their communication, rather few research efforts have been geared towards assessing to what extent content that could be considered as personalized succeed in gaining traction among the online followers or fans of political actors. The current study does precisely that, comparing the ways in which the content offered by Norwegian parties and party leaders is received by those who follow their updates on Instagram – a social media image sharing service.

“Knowing what goes on in the world” – how Danish students navigate through Facebook’s Newsfeed

Report on pilot study, IT University Copenhagen

How do young Danes inform themselves? How do they navigate through the different kind of news available on Facebook’s Newsfeed? These were the questions a pilot study run by DECIDIS researcher Martina Mahnke Skrubbeltrang (together with Jannie Møller Hartley & research assistant research Birgitte Rigtrup) focused on. The study builds on the DECIDIS survey, which showed that especially young users receive their daily news via Facebook’s Newsfeed: 47,1% from the 16-19 year old receive their news via Facebook and 37,1 % from the 20 to 29 year old. In the broader field of communication studies, several quantitative and qualitative studies have investigated in more detail if and how young people follow public news. In 2007, Horowitz & Mindich concluded that news and current affairs play a rather limited role in the everyday life of young people. However, another study carried out in the UK claims that news programs play an increasing role, as the youngsters’ grow older (Gauntlett & Hill, 1999). According to the recent Reuters Digital News Report more than 50 % of the young Danes between 18 and 25 access news several times a day.

While the frequent access to news might indicate an interest into news, a concern for many experts as well as parents is the platform news get accessed through. At the moment, Facebook is one of the primary platforms for the young and Facebook has continuously been criticized for their intransparent algorithms. In the light of the recent presidential election also for their susceptibility for fake news, which led to the instruction of special educational services for journalists. Despite the extensive critique Facebook is facing, it is still one of the most used platforms for receiving news and other information of interests. Therefore, the idea behind this study was to focus on the young users and their navigation strategies. The empirical data for this study was gathered amongst students taking the Master’s degree “Digital Design and Communication” at the IT University of Copenhagen. In total, 72 students took part in a survey that asked various questions in relation to their understanding of being informed in the digital age. They were for example asked what being informed means to them and how they would evaluate specific normative statements in relation to being an informed citizen. Drawing on the survey material, three students were interviewed in-depth in relation to their Newsfeed routines and two of the interviewed students took part in an additional workshop.

The results of the pilot study suggest that young Danish students approach news quite normatively. It seems like they get caught in their own ideals: On the one hand they wish for unbiased factual news and on the other, they need to deal with Facebook’s news reality; a reality in which news from traditional publishing houses are hardly distinguishable from other material. When asked about what the concept “being informed” means to them, the following answers were most common:

“Having an idea of what is going on in the world”
“Updated on the most current events in DK as well as the world”
“Being enlightened and wiser”
“To understand and be able to discuss the impact of whatever area you are informed on”

An interesting observation that can be made is that being informed refers to local as well as global news. A large part of the surveyed students wanted to be more aware of what is going on in the world and learn about current affairs through an unfiltered, nuanced and transparent lens as well as from different perspectives. When asked how the students feel about the information they receive via Facebook’s Newsfeed, they answered as follows:

“Facebook may have a lot of news in it, but if it is only relayed by others and not directly from the news source, it can get distorted.”
“Facebook’s News Feed is depending on what I like, what my friends like and what they share. Therefore it is very biased in my point of view”.
“Facebook entertainment rather then news – Facebook is only showing news that I am interested in”

According to the students, Facebook’s Newsfeed is strongly related to what has been discussed under the term filter bubble. Many students stated that they feel they do not receive proper news via Facebook. In their understanding, the information they receive is biased, subjective and leans towards the entertainment side. One fifth of the surveyed students, however, stated that they do feel informed via Facebook and they do feel so, because Facebook shows them what their friends read and therefore they feel updated. When asked about their Newsfeed behavior about 70 % stated that they scroll through Facebook strategically searching for news that specifically interests them. 29,2 % stated that they read almost all headlines when scrolling through the Facebook’s Newsfeed. In a further question, the students were asked to agree or disagree with specific normative statements in relation to the democratic ideal of being an informed citizen. Almost all students agreed on the following statements: “One has to be critical in his or her media selection”. The majority of the students agreed on the statement: “One has to read society related news”. Rather mixed were responses to statements such as “One has to seek information with a politically different view than one’s own” or “One has to seek actively for democracy-related news”.

The in-depth interviews conducted following the survey helped shedding light on more specific concepts that were used to describe news in general. A thematic analysis of the transcribed interviews resulted in the following list of concepts relating to the students’ news behavior:

Uncontrolled Entertainment Passing time
Time limited Situational Nuanced
 Controversial Noise Emotional
Information gathering Relevant Confirmatory
Raising awareness Dominating Surprise
Important Creating habits  


Asked which of the concepts above describe Facebook’s Newsfeed best, the answers varied. For example, one student answered:

  • Relevance
  • Situational
  • Raising awareness
  • Noise
  • Information gathering
  • Time limited

While another answered:

  • Relevance
  • Situational
  • Important
  • Entertainment
  • Uncontrolled
  • Passing time

A comparative look at both answers shows how personal the understanding of Facebook’s Newsfeed is. While the latter describes Facebook’s Newsfeed as entertaining, situational and complex in nature, the former describes it as relevant, noisy information that raises awareness towards situational issues.

In summary, this pilot study provides some interesting insights in relation to young user’s navigation habits. According to the collected data material, it can be concluded the surveyed students are using Facebook’s Newsfeed strategically in relation to their personal interests; however, with a normative mindset. That being said, they do look for news and information in relation to public affairs and at the same time they question sources, yet they seem to be disappoint by the selection of news they receive. Being asked what their ideal newsfeed would like, the answer was that they would like to receive more news from reliable sources. This raises the question, how public news providers can take these wishes into account and/or if they are able to reach the young generation via formats that build on the benefits of Facebook such as a wide variety of news from friends and acquaintances while reducing the disadvantages such as receiving irrelevant and partial misleading news.

Rapport om Internettet i folketingsvalget 2015 / Report on Internet Use in the 2015 Danish Elections

English summary – see below.

Rapporten Internettet i folketingsvalget 2015 kan hentes her.
(hvis du refererer til rapporten, så angiv venligst følgende som kilde: Hoff, J., Linaa Jensen, J. og Klastrup, L.  (2016). Internettet i folketingsvalget 2015.

Torsdag d. 25. august fremlagde professor Jens Hoff (Københavns Universitet), forskningschef Jakob Linaa Jensen (Danmarks Medie og Journalist højskole) og lektor Lisbeth Klastrup fra IT-Universitetet i København nogle centrale fund fra deres undersøgelse af brugen af internettet i folketingsvalget 2015. Undersøgelsen baserer sig på tal indsamlet fra et survey besvaret af 3590 respondenter, og er udført i samarbejde med Danske Medier. Det er den tredje undersøgelse i træk der ser på danskernes brug af internettet i forbindelse med et folketingsvalg , hvilket betyder, at vi nu har et interessant tidsstudie af hvordan brugen af internettet i forbindelsen med danske folketingsvalg har udviklet sig siden 2007.

Tallene fra 2015 viser – ikke overraskende – at internettet har fået stadig større betydning som kilde til politisk information i forbindelse undervejs i folketingsvalget. Hele 88% af surveydeltagerne havde benyttet sig af internettet til at søge politisk information, og 61% angiver at de har set politisk indhold på sociale medier (angivet som “Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, YouTube etc.”). Særligt valgquizzer og tests er blevet populære – hele 60% af deltagerne havde testet deres politiske holdning i en valgquiz eller test. Samtidig ses samme tendens som ved de forrige valg: der er langt flere, der “passivt” søger politisk information i relation til valget end der er folk, der deltager aktivt i valget online (ved fx. selv at deltage i debatter eller poste eget indhold).

For flere fund – for eksempel respondenternes vurdering af hvor meget internettet og de sociale mediers påvirker valgresultatet – se rapporten.

English summary:
This post concerns a report presenting findings from a study of the use of the internet in the Danish Parliamentary elections 2015 carried out in conjuction with the organisation Danske Medier. A research consortium consisting of DECIDIS affiliates Professor Jens Hoff (University of Copenhagen), Research Head Jakob Linaa Jensen (Danish School of Media and Journalism), and local DECIDIS member Associate Professor Lisbeth Klastrup (IT University of Copenhagen) presented findings of the study at an event on August 25th. The report which summarises the findings is now available for free in Danish (for link, see top of post).  An interesting finding is that 88% of the 3.590 survey participants had used the internet to look for political informtation during the election campaign period and  61% stated that they had seen political content on social media,  a notable increase from the use of the internet and social media in during the 2007 and 2011 elections, where similar surveys were sent out and analysed.

Ny rapport: Sociale medier og politisk engagement i Danmark

Danmark er et unikt land, for studier af  det demokratiske potentiale for offentlig politisk debat og engagement, fordi danskerne er stærkt repræsenterede, ikke mindst på Facebook. Tidligere studier har fokuseret på sociale mediers demokratisk potentiale eller har kritiseret sociale mediers mulige negative indflydelse på kvaliteten af den offentlige debat. Resultaterne fra dette survey understøtter ikke tydeligt nogle af disse to yderpunkter. I stedet præsenteres en række ligheder med, hvad vi ved fra tidligere undersøgelser af social interaktion offline1: generelt set er danskerne ikke særligt åbne for at diskutere politik i offentlige sammenhænge. Dette bør ikke fortolkes som at sociale medier ikke lever op til et demokratisk potentiale; i stedet bør vi forstå sociale medier som en forlængelse af offline interaktion. Sociale medier har ændret måden, vi kommunikerer og interagerer på. Digitalisering af disse interaktioner giver os et bredere publikum, end vi tidligere har haft adgang til, og muliggør kommunikation, som er mere uafhængig af tid og rum. Men i takt med at sociale medier optages som en del af hverdagspraksis, er det også naturligt at brugsmønstre tilpasses hverdagsbehov og -interesser.

Fuld Decidis Rapport 2016 (Dansk)

Hovedfund

  • Sociale medier er hverdagspraksis for mange danskere, men aktivitetsniveau og typen af aktiviteter
    varierer.
  • Danskere bruger primært sociale medier til at læse indhold fra andre. De bruges i mindre grad til at producere originalt indhold eller til at interagere med indhold, som er produceret af andre.
  • Unge danskere i Danmark er stærkere repræsenteret og mere aktive på sociale medier end andre aldersgrupper. Generationen mellem 20 og 39 år er mere interesseret end andre grupper i at bruge Facebook til at diskutere politik med fremmede som ikke er familie, venner eller kollegaer.
  • Særligt på Facebook er der en overvægt af brugere, som definerer deres kommunikation som privat og som bruger platformen til at kommunikere med private kontakter såsom venner og familie.
  • Generelt set er det ikke så ofte, at danskerne diskuterer politik med fremmede på sociale medier, og at dette fører til, at de ændrer syn på et politisk emne. Men der er en mindre gruppe, som siger de gør dette.

Social Media & Political engagement in Denmark (DECIDIS survey)

How do Danes engage with and through social media in public political debates? Are Danes becoming participatory content creators or is this a mere ideal of social media use? A preliminary analysis of the data collected in the DECIDIS survey “Social Media and Political Engagement” shows that social media and especially Facebook continues to be a central part of most Danes daily media habits. That is to say, social media does seem to engage some people in political debate, however, most of the Danes prefer using social media platforms to stay in contact with friends and family, and to receive news. In sum, the survey suggests the following three statements about social media use in Denmark:

  1. Social media is widely used in Denmark, however the average age as well as the frequency and type of use differ greatly.
  2. Danes use social media primarily to read (“stay in touch” or “be informed”) rather than produce original content or participate in political debates.
  3. Overall, young Danes are much more present on social media platforms. Espeically, the generation between 20 and 39 years is using social media for political debate.

Full report (PDF)

A more detailed look at the user numbers shows that Facebook is the most popular social media platform in Denmark: 72,4%  older than 15 have a Facebook account and 58% use Facebook at least once a day. The data further shows that Facebook has penetrated all age groups. Almost all young Danes use Facebook (91,2% in the age group 16-19) and still more than half of the over 70 year olds (61,5%) use Facebook. Generally, Facebook is a popular platform for news consumption and staying in contact with friends and family. A slightly different picture can be seen when looking at Instagram and Snapchat. Young Danes use these two services significantly more than older Danes. While 82,4% of the 16 to 19 year olds use Snapchat, less than 1% of the 70 year olds use the instant messenger. In contrast Twitter is generally much less popular. Fewer people have an account and, of those who do, very few people use it daily. In this sense Twitter is a more public platform and therefore mostly used for public relations.

Within the survey three different types of social media use were distinguished: reading, producing and participating. From a democratic perspective, participating (= interacting with the available content) is the most desirable from of engagement. However, according to the findings of the survey Danes use social media mostly to read and watch content. This can be illustrated with the iceberg metaphor: The bottom is formed by readers, the middle by producers creating content and the top the participants actively engaging in discussions.

With regards to political discussions, most people say they never discuss politics with people they do not know online. Few people say they do so often but a larger portion say they may do so though seldom. Unsurprisingly, most people say they never change their mind on a political issue after a discussion online. Some say they do this occasionally and only few say often or always. These finding suggest that social media is not simply generating echo chambers supporting conformation bias, but these platforms can also lead to new ideas and changed opinions of users. Especially younger Danes use Facebook to discuss politics online. 22,6% of the 20 to 29 year old Facebook users engage frequently in political debate.

In conclusion, it can be said that Danes produce content online, however not solely as content producers but as producers of data. Every click online leaves traces and this may be an increasing form of digital content production.

Contact DECIDIS survey: Luca Rossi, lucr@itu.dk
Foto credit: Morten Hjelholt

DECIDIS survey: Social Media & Political Engagement

Wednesday, March 9th
14.00 – 16.00, IT University Copenhagen
Room: AUD4

Next Wednesday DECIDIS researchers Gitte Stald and Luca Rossi will present first findings of the annual DECIDIS survey researching the Danish social media sphere. The representative survey provides insight into Danish media habits and preferences. The goal of the study is to contribute towards the on-going discussion how social media influences democractic practices. Contact: lucr@itu.dk

Everybody is welcome, no registration needed!

Political campaigning in 2020?

How will election campaigns evolve in relation to increasing social media use? This was the main question tackled by digital media researcher Axel Bruns, and DECIDIS researchers Luca RossiLisbeth Klastrup and Sander Schwartz during the seminar “Election 2020” tacking place at the IT University of Copenhagen.

Axel Bruns, known for his extensive research on Twitter, started off by talking about the policital landscape in Australia. The case of political campaigning in Australia provides an interesting context as it raises the questions whether the law enforcing compulsory voting at federal and state level encourages awareness of political issues and political actors or not. In this regard it can be stated that the main focus needs to be put on the swinging middle, which makes up 10-20% of Australian voters. Drawing on comprehensive research in relation to the hashtags #ausvotes, #qldvotes and #wavotes Bruns concluded that Twitter has evolved from a narrow “Twitterati” in-group tool to a mainstream campaign tool. The collected data further suggests that there is no relation between how often a politician is mentioned on Twitter and the final election outcome. Additionally, the dynamics of recent elections, which have largely favoured the conservative side, mean that the Australian conservative Coalition bloc, which has won a number of landslide elections, has yet to engage in the question how to use social media effectively. By contrast, social media are especially important for small Australian parties, which are active on social media but are systematically disadvantaged by the first-past-the-post system used in Australian elections.

The following presentation by Lisbeth Klastrup shed light on the Danish context. Danish politicians are active in the Facebook sphere since 2007 and have fully adopted the medium in 2011 when Facebook became a mainstream tool for politicial communication. By contrast, Twitter has only been used by early adopters in 2011 and is now slowly becoming a mainstream tool. Klastrup further talked about “defining moments” where the social sphere made an actual impact. In 2007, for example, invited Anders Fogh Rasmussen his Facebook “friends” for a run and therewith engaged with his online community offline. Another recent example is the refugee crises, where the hashtag #engangvarjegflygtning (rough translation: Once I was a refugee) has been used in relation to a social media campaign. In conclusion, Klastrup states that social media is no longer optional but needs to be strategically integrated in a meaningful way.

Sander Schwartz’ talk on “Facebook and the general Danish election” supplemented Klastrup’s talk and presented data gathered from 2011 to 2015. Schwartz started off by noting that Danish Facebook use is not declining, even through this is an often made claim. According to a recent study by Danish Radio, 62% of the Danish population use Facebook on a daily basis. This trend is confirmed when looking at how Danish politicians use social media: While in 2011 only 38 % of the candidates were active on Facebook pages, in 2015 62 % of the politicians used Facebook pages. Also, the use of Twitter accounts has risen considerably, from 15 % to 69 %. Overall, Schwartz noted a steep increase of citizen activity on Facebook. He believes that recent changes in the Facebook design have potentially led to this engagement.

Luca Rossi concluded the seminar by sharing insights from an annual data collection run by the DECIDIS research group, which will be published in the first quarter of 2016. The data shows that Facebook has fully penetrated the age group of 16 to 18 year olds Danes. This does not mean that all young Danes use Facebook intensively but that they have at least opened an account at some point. When contrasting Twitter and Facebook it can be stated that Facebook is still at the forefront, Twitter is mostly used by young Danes up to the age of 30.  A network analysis of different political hashtags used on Twitter shows that activity mostly happen around TV debates. Further, it can be stated that users typically re-tweet what they agree with, which leverages the problem of online echo chambers, in which competing ideas are typically underrepresented. In conclusion and as a summary of the seminar, it can be stated that Twitter is and will be an important medium gathering ad-hoc publics for live events as well as a (back)channel for politicians, journalists and so-called “political junkies”.

 

New Study: Media Literacy in Denmark

media literacy studyThe study “Media Literacy in a Danish Context” was carried out in collaboration with The Agency for Culture in Denmark and the Media Council for Children and Youth. The purpose of the study was to investigate the level of media competences and media literacy in Denmark and to identify key elements for further studies and initiatives in relation to media literacy. An important scope of the study was to involve a wide range of the Danish population across age, address, background, and media use. Not least, because this project is part of the Agency for Culture’s overall objective on mapping the media development in Denmark.

In total, the project visited and interviewed 20 families who live in the five regions in Denmark. The analysis shows that the participants are quite competent media users with variations across different media. It also indicates that competences are only one aspect of literacy and there were also big differences in how they approached media critically and how they reflected on the role of media in their everyday lives. Generally participants felt that media make their everyday life easier, even though using media fills big parts of it.

The report concludes and recommends that further investigations are needed and suggested new full scale studies focussing on the major groups of ordinary Danes, respectively those with special issues and needs, and finally the very marginalized citizens. All groups require specifically focused studies and initiatives for raising the media literacy level.

The summary and the full report (in Danish) can be found here: http://slks.dk/mediernes-udvikling-2015/specialrapporter/media-literacy-i-en-dansk-kontekst/

A summary in English will be posted in January on this blog.

Contact for more information: stald@itu.dk

DECIDIS goes to Phoenix

DECIDIS is going to be present at the upcoming IR16 conference organised by the Association of Internet Researchers in Phoenix, AZ from 21-23 October.

We’ll be presenting some of our ongoing research through the three days of the conference:
During the pre-conference activities Luca Rossi is co-organising a workshop on Social Media research methods “#FAIL! Things That Didn’t Work Out in Social Media Research – And What We Can Learn From Them” and he’s giving a talk with the title “The fourth deadly sin of social media researchers (or: scientific research and unstable socio-technical platforms)“.

Thursday Luca is also presenting the paper “From Moon to Comet Landing: re-imagining (scientific) media events in the Age of Twitter“, while Friday he’s participating in the panel “Adoption and Adaptation: Diachronic Perspectives on the Growing Sophistication of Social Media Uses in Elections Campaigns” where he’s presenting a focus on the Italian case.
Saturday Gitte Stald is presenting her paper ” Would you vote from your mobile? Young Danes’ perceptions of the Mobile as a Democratic Tool and Symbol”.

It’s going to be a very busy week for DECIDIS people in the sunny Phoenix but we’ll try to update the blog and the live-tweet the conference as much as we can.

DECIDIS @Nordmedia 2015

Several researchers related to the DECIDIS research initiative have presented papers at the Nordmedia 2015 conference at the University of Copenhagen this week. Nordmedia is the big biannual conference for all Nordic media researchers, and in general this is the place to go if you want to know more about the use of digital media in the Nordic countries for mundane, civic, democratic and political purposes.

Here is what we talked about:
Christina Neumayer & Luca Rossi: “A Socio-Technical Timeline of Protest Scholarship across Online Media”

Johan Dam Farkas & Jannick Schou: ““Take Action Now and Share This”: Mapping the Micro-dynamics of Political Participation through Facebook.”

Lisbeth Klastrup: “When Facebook took it all – a Study of Social Media Use by Danish Politicians from 2005- 2015”

Jakob Linaa Jensen: “Social sharing of news – gatekeeping and opinion leadership on Twitter”

Bjarki Valtysson: “Restaging the past: Digitized cultural heritage, cross-­‐media communication and participation”

International network partners:
Anders Olof Larsson & Eli Skogerbø: “Out with the old, in with the new? Perceptions of social media by local and regional Norwegian politicians”

Kirill Filimonov, Uta Russmann & Jakob Svensson: “Picturing the Party: Political Party Uses of Instagram in the Swedish 2014 Elections.”

luca presenting
Luca Rossi presenting his and Christina Neumayer’s meta research on digital protest participation research