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Covering distance: essays on representation and political communication
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5485-8577
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Political representatives’ democratic legitimacy rests on their ability to cover the distance between themselves and citizens. Representatives must avoid being perceived as distant and aloof from the needs and wishes of those they represent. The aim of this thesis is to increase the understanding of how new forms of communication with citizens, through participatory initiatives as well as political blogging, are used by politicians in their roles as representatives. Underlying this aim is the question of whether new forms of communication can contribute to reducing the distance between representatives and citizens. The central argument of this thesis is that such types of communication aid representative democracy only to the extent that they offer representatives efficient channels for performing functions related to political representation.

This study presents a theoretical framework that identifies potential functions of communication between representatives and citizens for political representation. Its empirical analyses, presented in five articles, find that representatives widely communicate with citizens through participatory initiatives and political blogging to aid their roles as political representatives. Furthermore, results show that representatives’ communication is significantly determined by strategic, practical, and normative factors. The representatives are found to act strategically as communication practices are adapted to accommodate their particular situations, needs and normative orientations. Keywords:

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro universitet , 2013. , 112 p.
Series
Örebro Studies in Political Science, ISSN 1650-1632 ; 33
Keyword [en]
political representation, political communication, participatory initiatives, political blogging
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-32019Libris ID: 14739396ISBN: 978-91-7668-983-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-32019DiVA: diva2:656286
Public defence
2013-12-20, Hörsal F, Forumhuset, Örebro universitet, Fakultetsgatan 1, 701 82 Örebro, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2013-10-15 Created: 2013-10-15 Last updated: 2017-10-17Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Connecting citizens to the European parliament: e-consultations as a tool for political representation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Connecting citizens to the European parliament: e-consultations as a tool for political representation
2011 (English)In: E-parliament and ICT-based legislation: concept, experiences and lessons / [ed] Mehmet Zahid Sobaci, Hershey, PA: IGI-Global , 2011, 80-102 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In recent years, a number of e-participation projects have been implemented with the objective to strengthening the relationship between European citizens and members of the European parliament (MEPs). This chapter investigates the most extensive of these projects, the European Citizens Consultations (ECC), with a focus on the relationship between citizens and MEPs. Two potential functions of e-consultations for strengthening political representation are analyzed, the connectivity function and the inquiry function. The results indicate that the ECC project fall short of offering a functional tool for strengthening political representation. Participating MEPs are shown to express disappointment with the project and participating citizens show signs of a growing dissent with the European parliament following their participation. This analysis suggests that the shortcomings of the ECC project are due to an insufficient understanding of political representation and the role of MEPs in the design of the ECC project. Three lessons of the ECC project are highlighted.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Hershey, PA: IGI-Global, 2011
Keyword
E-consultations, Political Representation, Political Communication, European Parliament, Political Trust, E-participation
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-20047 (URN)10.4018/978-1-61350-329-4 (DOI)978-1-61350-329-6 (ISBN)
Available from: 2011-10-13 Created: 2011-10-13 Last updated: 2017-10-17Bibliographically approved
2. Participatory initiatives and political representation: the case of local councillors in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Participatory initiatives and political representation: the case of local councillors in Sweden
2012 (English)In: Local Government Studies, ISSN 0300-3930, E-ISSN 1743-9388, Vol. 38, no 6, 795-815 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The health of political parties and the institutions of representative democracy have been extensively questioned during the last decade due to evidence of a widespread decline in voting turnout, political trust, and party membership as well as identification. An often-proposed, but also often-questioned, strategy to strengthen representative democracy is for political institutions to offer alternative forms of political participation through so-called participatory initiatives. The literature suggests that participatory initiatives will have little impact on representative democracy if no adaptation among political representatives is apparent. This paper explores the consistency between participatory initiatives in Swedish municipalities and the attitudes, practices and role-taking of local councillors, comparing pioneer municipalities where extensive numbers of participatory initatives have been executed vis-à-vis hesitator municipalities where few initiatives have been implemented. The study indicates that local participatory initiatives may stimulate political representation by creating new channels for citizen input and communication between citizens and representatives that are supported by local councillors in the pioneer municipalities. However, the core roles of parties and councillors in representative democracy appear not to be challenged by these initiatives, being similar in both groups of municipalities. The article is concluded by a discussion of the implications of these results for the function of participatory initiatives in local democracy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2012
Keyword
Participatory initiatives, political representation, political communication, local councillors, local democracy
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-23476 (URN)10.1080/03003930.2012.688036 (DOI)000314914900007 ()2-s2.0-84874298943 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2012-06-13 Created: 2012-06-13 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
3. Blogging in the shadow of parties: collectivism and individualism in the Swedish 2010 election
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Blogging in the shadow of parties: collectivism and individualism in the Swedish 2010 election
2011 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Blogging is an increasingly important practice in election campaigns, showing interesting variations across contexts. Recent research has shown that the adoption and use of blogs is strongly shaped by national institutional settings, that is, the different roles given to political parties. However, intra-national differences in the practice of political blogging are yet to be explained. This article investigates the variation in usage of blogs in electoral campaigns in Sweden, a country characterized by strong political parties and a party-centered form of representative democracy. The central argument of this article is that blogs are utilized in different ways by different parties. Just as blogging is shaped by how institutions support persons or parties, we propose that political blogging is shaped by party affiliation and ideological positions on individualism and collectivism. The empirical analysis, based on a survey among over 600 blogging politicians, confirms that ideological positions towards individualism and collectivism have a great impact on the uptake and usage of political blogs, portraying political blogging as a strongly ideologically situated practice of political communication.

National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-19779 (URN)
Conference
ECPR Joint Sessions, April 12-17 2011, St Gallen, Switzerland
Available from: 2011-10-10 Created: 2011-10-10 Last updated: 2017-10-17Bibliographically approved
4. Representation as interactive communication: theoretical considerations and empirical findings
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Representation as interactive communication: theoretical considerations and empirical findings
2013 (English)In: Information, Communication and Society, ISSN 1369-118X, E-ISSN 1468-4462, Vol. 16, no 8, 1201-1222 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Considering the recent interest in more interactive practices in political representation, this article argues that there is a need to understand the differentiated meanings and functions of this form ofcommunication. The subject of political representation as interactive communication is addressed theoretically as well as empirically. A theoretical framework is presented identifying three strategic functions of interactive communication in political representation: (1) interactivity as accountability, (2)interactivity as inquiry, and (3) interactivity as connectivity. Also, empirical analyses are conducted among blogging politicians in Sweden. These analyses suggest that interactive communication among political representatives cannot be understood as either a radical change in terms of new interactive forms ofrepresentation breaking with earlier norms and ideals, or complete continuity. Instead, the argument is that representatives may adopt interactive communication strategically to fulfil different normative ideals of political representation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2013
Keyword
e-Democracy, political representation, Web 2.0, computer mediated communication, blogging
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-26573 (URN)10.1080/1369118X.2012.757633 (DOI)000323632300001 ()2-s2.0-84883488863 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2012-12-03 Created: 2012-12-03 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
5. The political blog space: A new arena for political representation?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The political blog space: A new arena for political representation?
2016 (English)In: New Media and Society, ISSN 1461-4448, E-ISSN 1461-7315, Vol. 18, no 3, 465-483 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

While the academic interest in the political blogosphere has grown exponentially in recent years, existing research is predominantly dedicated to political campaigning. In view of the “diminishing prestige of the electoral process” and the “rise of new forms of legitimacy” a broader political analysis of blogs is called for. This article investigates whether the political blogosphere is an arena for political representation by asking (1) how representatives communicate with citizens through blogging in order to aid central functions of political representation, such as accountability, connectivity, and inquiry, and (2) what strategic, technological, and normative factors explain differences in representatives’ communication with citizens. The empirical analysis, based on a survey questionnaire targeting all Swedish blogging representatives, illuminates four different approaches to blogging, with different drivers and implications for the representative democracy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2016
Keyword
Blogs, democracy, interactive communication, Internet, political representation, social media
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-32556 (URN)10.1177/1461444814543990 (DOI)000371645500007 ()2-s2.0-84959268820 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2013-11-28 Created: 2013-11-28 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved

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