Video-Hosting Services as Agents of Political Mobilisation. Uses, Perception and Functions of User-Generated Online Videos in the Internet
This project elaborates on the following research question: how are the information-seeking and political participation of online users affected by the perception of user-generated online videos (UGOV) available from video-hosting services in the Internet? Further, we are interested in how this affects the communication strategies of political actors. The project’s specific objective is to analyse structural change in political communication against the background of UGOV diffusion, which has increasingly become an alternative media source for citizens. UGOV crystallise both formal and informal content in political communication and therefore expose new opportunities for the electorate, as well as for political organizations. The theoretical perspective is based on a modified dynamictransactional approach (DTA), with agenda-setting modelling the intertransactions, political cynicism and agenda-building particularising the intra-transactions, and social network theory explaining the dynamics of the process. Based on the conceptual framework provided here, one can develop a set of questions that are relevant to analysing the processes of user-generated media in the context of political communication. In addition, there should be a link back to the concept of the public as an intermediate system concerning the consequences of possible developments in the field of political UGOV on video platforms. We apply a multi-method design, consisting of field experiments and qualitative interviews with representatives of political parties and organisations and with the prosumers of political video content. The starting point is a self-produced cinematic contribution in several variations, using the example of the mayor ́s election in Erfurt, the state capital of Thuringia, in 2012. We hypothesise that the representation of politics in UGOV establishes new paths for political participation. At the same time, UGOV are expected to generate feedback on the communication strategies of political organisations (such as parties or NGOs). This may add a new dimension to the process of political mobilisation. As a result of this exploratory research, empirical findings are expected which (1) advance the theory construction of the medium-range approaches. So far, changes through innovative media products are considered to play only a rudimentary role. Our results will (2) refine the conceptual framework of the DTA by using additional and as yet unobserved evidence on a research field. Further, we aim (3) to validate an innovative repertoire of methods to test underlying models.