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Developing political conversations? Social media and English local authorities

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JournalInformation, Communication and Society
DateE-pub ahead of print - 16 Nov 2012
DatePublished (current) - Aug 2013
Issue number6
Volume16
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)878-898
Early online date16/11/12
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This paper reports on a survey of social media use by English local authorities. The survey indicates that English local authorities currently do not engage with social media in any substantive manner. However, as the paper argues, this lack of attention to forms of communication afforded by Web 2.0 risks missing an important avenue of ‘citizen engagement’, understood neither in the relatively straightforward terms of one-way ‘e-democracy’, such as e-petitions, nor in the Habermasian sense of rational democratic deliberation, but the more flexible manner of open-ended ‘conversations’ about local political issues. As the paper makes clear, academic enquiry has largely neglected this apparently mundane use of social media – certainly as it relates to specifically political participation – so some ‘interactive snapshots’ of this embryonic form of political communication are examined as a way of providing ‘prefigurative examples’ of its potential. By way of conclusion, it is suggested that the development of civic or political conversations across local government chimes with the emergent liquid modern environment, supporting, but not replacing, the ‘fixed’, or at least less ‘agile’, institutions of representative democracy.

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