CALL FOR PAPERS | New Forms of Digital Communication & Political Organization Workshop

09 October 2014 – 10 October 2014
University of Canberra

Dates: 9-10 October 2014

Location: Ann Harding Conference Centre, University of Canberra

Submission Deadline: 300 word abstract outlining the thesis of the paper, data, and methods due 14 August 2014.

Please submit all abstracts to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Decision on Abstracts: 25 August 2014

Confirmed Keynote: W. Lance Bennett


Call for papers:

From the Arab Spring to the Indignados and Occupy and more recent movements in Turkey and Brazil, social media and other online form of communication have been central to organizing, coordinating and timing protests and other engagements garnering global attention (Bennett 2012; Bennett and Segerberg 2013; Karpf 2012). Beyond social movements, social media have also become a critical medium through which political campaigns are waged (Anstead and Chadwick 2009; Bimber and Davis 2003; Gibson and McAllister 2011; Jensen and Anstead 2013; Vaccari 2012) and via which professionalized interests and lobbying groups interact with their supporters (Bimber, Flanagin, and Stohl 2012). The significance of online political engagement stems not only from the rise in internet access and mobile connectivity, but also from new forms of participation such as everyday making and expert citizenship generating reflexive political networks and communities beyond the domain of formal institutions and civil society oriented movements (Bang 2010, Bevir and Rhodes 2006, Hendriks and Tops 2005, Wagenaar 2011). These first of all relate to new high-consequence policy risks and challenges like increasing global warming, and the downgrading of the political everyday activities of ‘the 99%’. The issue frames for communicating about these are often fragmented, personalized, and playful while it is not unusual that offline gatherings often have more of a festival environment.

Critics of the new forms of participation are often dismissing them as examples of anti- politics (Stoker 2013) or as ‘reductive’ forms of communication undermining the deliberative and bridging capacities of individuals (Dryzek 2010). However, the shifts in political repertoires may also be seen as indicative of wider transformations in the organization of political life and the structuring of the relationship between political elites and laypersons (Jensen and Bang 2013). Conference attendees will be invited to present research dealing with the involvement of digital communications in political engagement practices, political community building and political organizing. At the heart of our interests is the relationship between laypeople and elites across different levels and domains of political systems. We will have three tracks of papers with two sessions each about the micro-tactics for coordinating, organizing, and integrating new forms of political engagement in relation to (1) protest, (2) political campaigning, and (3) formal organizations and interest group politics.

Social media have played a significant role in recent politics. The relationship between online communications and street-level demonstrations is a complicated one; neither would exist without the other; yet they operate at different levels of the networks constituting them. We are looking for papers that contribute to the elucidation of the relationship between online communications and corresponding street-level demonstrations, the organization of political demonstration within and through these communications, and responses to demonstrations by political elites and organizations operating in an online domain.

Although campaigning is more subject to institutional parameters than protesting, quickly digital media teams have become a critical force in political campaign organizations. More than any other candidate, Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was heralded for its innovations in online engagement. Between the extensive use of social media communications and the ability for users to customize their experience and encounters with the campaign through, the campaign was revolutionary in reconfiguring relationships between political candidates and supporters. In part, this approach was aided Obama’s ability to decisively win over younger voters in both 2008 and 2012. We are looking for papers investigating the integration of individual contributions and online tactics into the organizational strategies of campaign execution as well as the ability to expand the reach of campaigns among younger, often disengaged segments of the electorate. In recent years the field of interest and nongovernmental organizations have undergone rapid transformation. The Internet affords lower transaction costs and scalable organizational capabilities. This has led to the proliferation of professional interest and lobbyist groups rooted in online membership – online donations, message boards, discussion lists, and action emails.

Likewise these groups have begun to experiment with new digital spaces of engagement for members and the constituencies they aim to address, affording varying capacities for organizational steering and interaction with other members. These groups have become increasingly critical as sources of policy-relevant information and involved in policy implementation. Papers presented in this track will address the evolving role of interest groups as mediators between members of the public elites.

These three tracks encompass a wide range of the spaces in which innovations in political engagement and elite-citizen interactions are occurring. They provide a broad basis for theorizing transformations in political life brought about by the emergence of digital media as critical modes of political communication in contemporary society and politics. The outputs of the conference will answer the following questions:

1. How do the new movements manoeuvre between new and old forms of participation? 2. How do the new movements relate to doctrines of representative, participatory and deliberative democracy?

3. How are individual and collective identities shaped and negotiated within the new movements?

4. How do the new movements engage with the political system – negatively or constructively, from the outside or from the inside – and how do elites engage these movements?

5. What are the terms on which supporters are called to participate in a political campaign? 6. What typologies of interest organizations and structures for organizational engagement and interest group membership practices are discernible?

Anstead, Nick and Andrew Chadwick. 2009. “Parties, Election Campaigning, and the Internet: Toward a Comparative Perspective.” In Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics, New York: Routledge, 56–72.

Bang, Henrik Paul. 2010. “Between everyday makers and expert citizens.” In: J. Fenwick and J. McMillan, eds. Public management in the postmodern era: challenges and prospects. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 163–192.

Bennett, W. Lance. 2012. “The Personalization of Politics Political Identity, Social Media, and Changing Patterns of Participation.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 644(1): 20–39.

Bennett, W. Lance, and Alexandra Segerberg. 2013. The Logic of Connective Action: Digital Media and the Personalization of Contentious Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bevir, Mark and R.A.W. Rhodes 2006. “Defending Interpretation.” European Political Science, 5: 69-83.

Bimber, Bruce, and Richard Davis. 2003. Campaigning Online: The Internet in US Elections. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bimber, Bruce, Andrew Flanagin, and Cynthia Stohl. 2012. Collective Action in Organizations: Interaction and Engagement in an Era of Technological Change. 1st ed. Cambridge University Press.

Dryzek, John. 2010. Foundations and Frontiers of Deliberative Governance. Oxford: Oxford University


Gibson, Rachel K., and Ian McAllister. 2011. “Do Online Election Campaigns Win Votes? The 2007 Australian ‘YouTube’ Election.” Political Communication 28(2): 227–44.

Hendriks, Frank and Pieter Tops 2005. “Everyday Fixers as Local Heroes.” Local Government Studies, vol. 31, no 4, 2005: 475-490.

Jensen, Michael J. and Henrik P. Bang. 2013. “Occupy Wall Street: A New Political Form of Movement and Community?” Journal of Information Technology & Politics 10(4): 444-461.

Jensen, Michael J., and Nick Anstead. 2013. “Psephological Investigations: Tweets, Votes, and Unknown Unknowns in the Republican Nomination Process.” Policy & Internet 5(2): 161–82.

Karpf, David. 2012. The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stoker Gerry. ‘Anti-Politics: Twelve Factors Explaining Plitical Disenchantment in Contemporary Democracies.’ ANZSOG Institute of Governance. 25 p in memo.

Vaccari, Cristian. 2012. “Online Participation in Italy: Contextual Influences and Political Opportunities.” In Digital Media and Political Engagement Worldwide: A Comparative Study, eds. Eva Anduiza, Michael J. Jensen, and Laia Jorba. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Wagenaar, Hendrik. 2011. Meaning in Action. New York: M.E. Sharpe.

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