Working papers and publications

Working Papers & Publications

All works are copyright protected 2008 to 2013 with the copyrights held by the authors. Permission to cite should be directed to the authors.

Abstract:Over the past decade, digital and mobile media have significantly changed the system of political communication in Brazil. An increasing number of Brazilian candidates have begun to use websites and social networking applications as an integral part of their overall campaign efforts. To explore how these "new" media tools are used at all levels of campaigns for national office, we built an original dataset of media use by political campaigns in the 2010 elections in Brazil. We investigate factors such as a candidate's use of web and social networking sites in conjunction with other traditional influences such as incumbency and party affiliation in order to get a robust understanding of the different roles that digital media tools are beginning to play in Brazilian elections. Does digital media provide some competitive advantage to minor party candidates facing off against major party candidates with higher profile and more resources? Do challenger candidates get any electoral advantage against incumbents for using the internet, social media, or mobile media strategies in their campaigning? In almost every instance, the incumbents who lost their office invested less in internet, social, and mobile campaign strategy than other incumbents who won. Winning challenger candidates in every level of government had more aggressive digital media campaigns than losing candidates. Social media strategies particularly using mobile technologies, provided newcomers with electoral advantages. Social networking applications proved particularly important for successful Senate campaigns, and mobile media strategies made a dramatic difference for the lower House of Deputies.

Abstract: This paper begins with an opening discussion of social change patterns that have impacted most of the post-industrial democracies (social fragmentation, personalization of communications, social network formation, decline of the press, erosion of political party loyalties, etc.). One result of these changes is a weakening of institution-based information gatekeeping in politics, the press and civil society. The old forms are still there, but fewer citizens are strongly oriented to them, particularly younger age cohorts. These processes are playing out differently in different societies.

The argument explores the relationship between communication theory and changing social structure, raising questions about communication models that are overly grounded in assumptions about modernist media and social structure (e.g., mass media, mass audience). This introduces an overview of under-theorized problems involving the organization of public life, the nature of media, and changing patterns of participation. These changes in modernist social order call for new theory and methods in three broad areas:

* Understanding how changing patterns of political participation and social relations produce new kinds of communication.

* How these new communication processes complement, challenge and sometimes replace traditional mass media systems.

* Re-conceptualizing communication processes to expand beyond message exchange and effects, and toward broader understanding of networked communication as organizational process. As social structures become more fluid, the role of communication in social organization becomes more important. The paper ends with a brief contrast between the modernist, institutionally coherent public sphere and the rise of networked publics.


Abstract: The gold standard for discussing public spheres has long been established around mass media, with the prestige print press given a privileged place. Yet when it comes to a European public sphere, the mass media are also problematic, or at least incomplete, in several ways: relatively few EU-wide issues are replicated in the national media of EU countries, the discourses on those issues are dominated primarily by elites (with relatively few civil society voices included in the news), and public attention is seldom paid to EU issues beyond a select few (money, agriculture, political integration, scandals), creating a distant ‘gallery public.’ At the same time, many important political issues such as trade and economic justice, development policy, environment and climate change policy, human rights, and military interventions, among others, are being addressed more actively by networks of civil society actors both within and across EU national borders. These networks utilize the Internet and various interactive digital media to publicize their issues, engage ac- tive publics, and contest competing policy perspectives not only within specific issue networks, but across solidarity networks involving other policy issues, and with political targets at national and EU levels. This dimension of the EU public sphere has received relatively little attention from observers, and when it has been explored, it is often dismissed as less inclusive, and therefore less significant than the somewhat reified mass media model. This analysis compares networked, digitally mediated public issue spheres with the mass mediated model, points out ways in which the two types of public sphere are complementary, and also shows how networked issue spheres may be the sites of greater citizen and civil society engage- ment in keeping with more classical models of public spheres.


Abstract: Two irreconcilable discourse styles currently clash in the American public arena. The right wing promotes the value of freedom and equates it with patriotism, while branding the left as unpatriotic enemies of freedom. The left has adopted a plea for greater civility which the right turns back on the left by making them appear weak, fumbling and out of touch with American values. If the left wants to regain the patriotic high ground, it must change its rhetorical style. This essay explains how.

Abstract: The narratives that flow through networks can shed light on their organization. This analysis looks at the elaboration of fair trade networks in the United States and the United Kingdom, with a focus on the narrative control exercised by key gate-keeping organizations. Structural properties of the two networks reflect differences in centralization as measured through distance, closeness and betweenness in relations among organizations. The analysis suggests that once a dominant story or entrenched opposing stories become established in a network, structural dynamics involving narrative choices, conflicts, and strategies can lead comparable networks to diverge even as they espouse the same cause. These differences affect the capacities of networks to mobilize for various kinds of activities.

Abstract: This paper approaches political individualization through the lens of collective action. Contemporary protests—such as the global anti-Iraq war protests—that are taken to be characteristic of individualized collective action are frequently impressive in terms of the numbers and diversity of people mobilized, as well as the short term focusing of attention on issues. Nevertheless, the very features that are so impressive also raise key concerns regarding the quality of action produced. While digital technology may facilitate organizing, critics doubt that loose multi-issue networks that are easy to opt in and out of can generate the commitment, coherence and persistence of action historically achieved by successful movements. This paper addresses the concerns arising at the interface between different action modes by linking the issues of collective action focus and capacity to questions about how organizational signals to individuals and each other affect the organization of a shared protest space. We propose the concept of an ecological collective action space (ECAS) in order better to assess the arrangements among actors in a particular political space. This conceptualization of action space directs attention to ways in which collective action configurations can shape the coherence, impact, and prospects of future actions: It highlights, first, how multiple organizational modes of communicating with individuals play out in the same event space, and second, how these patterns of communication affect the ways in which organizations, coalitions, and individuals negotiate, willfully or not, the qualities of the action space which they mutually constitute. We develop these ideas by analyzing the ecological space shared by two umbrella protest coalitions at the 2009 G20 London summit.

We analyze over 215 incidents of compromised data between 1995 and 2005. All in all, some 1.76 billion records have been exposed, either through hacker intrusions or poor management. In the context of the United States, there have been 8 records compromised for every adult. Between 1995 and 2005, businesses were the primary sources of these incidents, but we find that the recent legislation in California to require notification of privacy violations has exposed educational institutions as among the least well equipped to protect the privacy of their students, staff, and faculty. Options for public policy oversight are discussed. However, recent legislative responses have favored market-based solutions instead of direct government regulation of electronic data.

Lance Bennett and Mike Xenos examine the role and growth of websites and youth engagement web networks during the 2004 Presidential election, with comparisons to their earlier study of 2002.

In very close elections, the margin of error for the system of collecting and counting votes may be greater than the margin of victory for a candidate We evaluate three ways of thinking about error in an election: technology error, residual votes, and incident reports. In 2004, we find seven states where electoral outcomes were certified even though the margin of error in that state's voting process was greater than the margin of victory for the declared winner Florida, Kentucky and South Dakota certified Republican Party candidates for the US Senate; electoral college votes in Iowa and New Mexico were assigned to Bush; electoral college votes in New Hampshire were assigned to Kerry; Washington state certified a Democratic Party candidate for Governor. In each case, the electoral outcome was legitimated by elections officials, not the electorate, because in very close races the voting process cannot reveal electoral intent. Public policy solutions are offered, such as run-off elections, standardized data reporting about error rates, and open source technology solutions.

Globalization has changed societies and the ways in which people think about and communicate politics. This paper explores properties of global activist communication and examines their implications for political organization and change.

This paper explores the transformation of public roles in global societies as citizens increasingly see their consumer activities as political. Includes examples of logo campaigns that attach political messages to household brands.

Conventional wisdom suggests that resource-poor activists are often excluded from or stigmatized in public discourse by mass media coverage. This analysis indicates that digital media channels offer activists new paths both for internal and public communication. New media themselves are not an explanation for these forms of empowerment through communication. Rather, it is important to understand how the identity processes and inclusive politics common to many activists in the democratic globalization movement lead to particular kinds of new media applications.

Twentieth-century mass media have been described as producing a "one-way conversation" (Postman, 1986). Instead of dialogical deliberation, political communication has tended to be monological, professionally produced and released for public consumption as a marketing exercise. For most citizens political debate has come to be perceived as something to watch - or switch off. The noisy vivacity of political speech, characteristic of the ancient agora or the market square, assumes a distant and romantic quality, while the political speech, witnessed via the broadcast transmission of parliamentary theatre, is regarded as performance. The analogue broadcast media, whose microphones tend to empower professional communicators and their invited guests, turns political talk into the political talk: a non-interactive political discourse.

According to the recently-conducted Oxford Internet Survey, most British people (61%) say that they frequently (22%) or every so often (39%) discuss politics with friends or family. But very few of them ever discuss politics with the people they elect to represent their interests and preferences. Most people (88%) have had no face-to-face contact with their MP within the past year. Three-quarters claim that within the past year they have never seen their MP on television, 80% that they have not written to their MP and 84% not to have visited their MP's web site. In a recent research exercise over two thousand people were asked to complete the following sentence: 'I don't feel connected to my political representative because .' A remarkable number of them expressed a sense that the politicians representing them came from another planet....

The media help us to make sense of the world. By addressing us as citizens, rather than mere consumers or free-floating egos, media make the link between communication and community. At its best, public broadcasting has contributed to a national conversation about who we are, how we live and what we want from the future. It has helped to define a public arena in which we can be more than passing stranger.


Parliamentary representation in the Internet age (Articles & Conference Papers)

Published Research at


Center for Communication & Civic Engagement