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 shows social media has become a multifaceted part of Danish society

What? Presentation of survey “Social Media and Politicial Engagement” in Denmark
When? March 9th, 14.00-16.00
Where? IT University Copenhagen, Room 3A54

How do Danish citizens participate politically with and through social media? This is one of the main questions explored in the DECIDIS study “Social Media and Political Engagement”. Starting point of the study is to measure political engagement in social media, especially along the practices of “reading”, “producing” and “participating”. A preliminary analysis of the collected data shows that social media use has matured. This means social media has become an integral part of everyday life, for example about 74% of Danish Facebook users older than 16 years use Facebook daily. This, however, also means that expectations towards political participation online may have to be adjusted – not all users are as engaged as generally assumed or wished for. Especially young Danes seek private spaces online and they find those in services such as Instagram and Snapchat; even though technically speaking Facebook offers a greater variety of privacy settings. The study further shows that social media is widely used to receive and read news; 47% of the 16-18 year old Facebook users say that they use Facebook daily in this matter. About 37% of the 19-29 year old Facebook users and 33% of the 20-39 year old Facebook users do so as well.

DECIDIS researchers Gitte Stald, Luca Rossi and Lisbeth Klastrup will present and discuss the study next Wednesday, March 9th (14.00-16.00, IT University Copenhagen, AUD 4) in greater detail. Everybody interested in the Danish social media sphere is invited, no registration needed. We are looking forward to discuss the findings of the study with you!

Slides DECIDIS survey presentation
Full report (English/Dansk)

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!

Pilot study on experiences of digital citizenship when socially marginalized

In December 2015, Gitte Bang Stald and Mette Grønbæk Rasmussen, conducted a pilot study on digital citizenship within socially marginalized groups. The aim of the study was to explore how we can study marginalization and vulnerability in relation to digital society. We interviewed three persons with experiences of homelessness and two inmates in a closed prison facility. Exploring the consequences of the “digital divide”, the study went further into how marginalization and restricted access to ICT affects the experience of citizenship in the digital age. Therefore, the interviews focussed on everyday life and the challenges when using digital media. Not surprisingly, the interviews show that life is very different for all informants, which is reflected their media use and their experiences of citizenship and exclusion.

The pilot study showed that the recent 20 years of development in ICT has neither reached the streets nor reached the inside of the closed prisons. For people with no permanent residence, personal communication and information are restricted by the lack of power supply (“if only smartphones used AA batteries”), which means, that the most practical means of communication is non-smart mobile-phones (long-lasting battery) and FM radio (entertaining AND uses AA batteries). For people living under long-term incarceration, communication is shaped by institutionalization and the problem of security. Contact with people and institutions outside the wall is therefore limited to face-to face visits, snail mail and land-line phonecalls (from one of the phonebooth in a common area). Online PC access is possible for short periods of time in the educational facilities, however only through the secured PC network that has been developed exclusively for the Danish prison system. Within Danish prisons all access to websites that have communication outlets are disabled. The informants describe the network as almost useless, except for getting headline news and official government information websites.

People living under incarceration or with out a home occupies highly marginalized in Danish society. The interviewees articulated themselves as being positioned ”outside – looking in”. For them, participation in the digital society seemed like something they are excluded from. However, informants are still aware of activity, possibilities and importance of the digital society and they conduct their role in this in very different ways. Some are actively resisting digital participation and some are fighting to be included. For example, an inmate had been fighting for 5 years, to get access to “parent-intra” (a parent-teacher communication system in Danish schools), without sucess.

Further research in this area will be twofold. One part will look at how digital society plays into the experience of exclusion and the other part will look at how the secured PC network can play a more enabling role in sustaining digital literacy, inclusion and citizenship for the inmates in closed prisons.

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”.

 

Invitation: Workshop & disussion with Axel Bruns (Digital Media Research Center, Australia)

Open discussion: Election Campaigning 2020

Tuesday 26th January,
Kl. 14.00 – 16.00
Room:  AUD 3 – ITU

Social Media have played a central role in recent elections all over the world. This is not a new trend, social media have been used more and more during the last fifteen years. From political blogs of early 2000 to the use of snapchat in 2015, we have seen various platforms and different strategies. What is going to happen next? How have election campaignes evolved and how will they evolve in terms of social media use? These question will be addressed by Axel Bruns – Queensland University of Technology, Lisbeth Klastrup – IT University of Copenhagen, Luca Rossi – IT University of Copenhagen and Sander Schwartz – IT University of Copenhagen. Everybody is kindly invited to participate.

Open workshop: Advanced Twitter Analytics Using TCAT and Tableau

When working with large social media datasets, quantitative and mixed-methods approaches that draw especially on visual representations of ‘big data’ have become an indispensable part of the scholarly research and publication process. This data analytics and visualization workshop will focus on a number of emerging standard tools and methods for large-scale data analytics, using Twitter data to illustrate these approaches. The workshop will introduce you to the open-source platform TCAT as a capable and reliable tool for data gathering from the Twitter API, and to the high-end data analytics software Tableau as a powerful means of processing and visualizing large datasets.

Monday 25th January
Kl. 14.00 – 17.00
Room: 3A18 – ITU

Presenter:
Dr. Axel Bruns, Professor in the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia

Please note:
The workshop is open to everybody but email registration is required. Please send an email to lucr@itu.dk if you plan to attend the workshop. Participants should bring their own laptops with Tableau installed (http://get.tableau.com/) – the trial version is enough to participate the workshop.

New publication: The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics

Routledge CompanionEditors Axel Bruns, Gunn Enli, Eli Skogerbø, Anders Olof Larsson, and Christian Christensen have taken on the task to put together a research compendium on Social Media and Politics that includes six continents. Therewith they go beyond established research in the US and UK and shed light on how Social Media is used for political protests, campaigns, and communication arcoss the globe. DECIDIS researchers Christina Neumayer and Luca Rossi are part of this experiment and have each contributed with up-to-date research.

Christina Neumayer’s chapter compares the formulation of antagonistic relationships and self-representation by fascist and anti-fascist groups in social media. Her argument draws on a qualitative analysis of communication and self-representation in social media and media coverage related to marches planned by nationalist groups in former East Germany as well as counter protests by anti-fascist groups, NGOs, and civil society. The chapter concludes that the use of social media in resistance at both ends of the political spectrum is only partially dependent on a group’s political ideology, and is more dependent on a group’s self-representation as marginalized and oppositional.

Luca Rossi compared together with Mario Orefice (University of Urbino Carlo Bo) Facebook and Twitter data collected during the 2013 Italian general election. Their chapter explores the central role of social media in contemporary election campaigns. While the role of social media is largely accepted, the question which specific social media site has the largest influence in voters’ decisions and how the various social media interacts with mass media is an open debate. The chapter concludes by showing how, in the Italian context, Twitter is largely dependent on TV political talk shows and how neither of the two observe social media can provide a representative picture of the whole political debate.

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 visits Centre for Digital Citizenship at Leeds University

Gitte Stald from DECIDIS visits the research group at the Centre for Digital Citizenship at the University of Leeds November 23 and 24. The Centre is lead by Professor Stephen Coleman who participated in a symposium at the IT Unviersity in Copenhagen in June, arranged by DECIDIS under the heading: Democracy & Citizenship in Digital Society.

Professor Coleman is the author of a number of prominent books, journal articles and conference papers within this area. Most recent publications are How Voters Feel; Can The Media Serve Democracy?  and Handbook of Digital Politics. All scholars at the Centre for Digital Citizenship are involved in research that is highly relevant for DECIDIS which the collective body of publications demonstrate. Read more here and here.

DurinLeeds Universityg her visit at Leeds University Gitte Stald will present DECIDIS to the
group and give a talk on “Managing citizenship in digital society”. She will also have the opportunity to discuss various research topics with a number of the participants of the group.

In focus at IGF: Human rights and the internet

Questions about human rights occur in multiple of the workshops, panels, open fora and plenary sessions at this year’s Internet Governance Forum in Joäo Pessoa, Brazil. It mainly refers to the right to have access to the internet, respectively how human rights can be protected through exploiting the positive opportunities of the internet and preventing the negative consequences.

The human rights topic obviously occurs in relation to the ambition to provide opportunities for the poor around the globe, in particular referring to “the next billion” to get online, and mainly in developing countries although it is still an issue for some groups in the developed parts of the world. It is mentioned that we cannot have half of the world not being connected to what has developed to be the central nervous system of global and local economy, culture, education, information etc.

We also hear from many participants that provide evidence for the specific difficult conditions for suppressed women and how online access could potentially support and strengthen their situation. We hear evidense about how e.i. hate speech encourage to violent opposition towards refugees around the globe, hence making the situations of refugees (often referred to here as migrants which may not be the same) much more difficult and that laborates ideological, cultural, emotional divides.

Another emerging but strong issue, that appears in many debates is the question about radicalization of especially youth, It has been underlined that i.e. critical opposition is not to be defined as radical positions even if it is perceived and treated as such in some countries. It has also been strongly stated that the internet as such is not the cause of radicalization, but merely a trigger or a channel. The contextual, cultural, social conditions in each country and for each child define the risk and the potential radicalization of the child or young person. The internet can just as well be seen as a resource for countering violent radicailzation or to understand the contexts and alter them. All in all, litP1000147eracy is a way to counter negative violent agency and support constructive uses.

Many other areas have come op and will continue to do so in the future. It seems that the focus on human rights in relation to internet access, use and governance has come to stay at IGF and will continue to develop in future fora.