Digital political communication: the effects of the rise of the New Medias
In an ever-changing subject such as digital communication, finding a fixed point or simply trying to identify trends for the near future is difficult. However, Social Networks - because of their ductility and pervasiveness and the relatively low costs that characterize them - are destined to be the backbone of any political communication and an increasingly important tool for the democratic participation of citizens. As Sorice also states in Comunicazione politica, the media, in other words, constitute the frame, the object, the arena (and in some cases even the subject) of political debate and confrontation.
The most widespread illusion remains that it is enough to open Sites, Pages and Accounts, investing economic and human resources in them, to use these tools effectively and obtain winning results. Actually, Social Media networks can only serve to amplify and share the intelligence of a message and the credibility of the narrative that a political subject can make of himself. One can easily become “viral” both with positive and winning messages, and with negative messages, or real gaffes, which are devastating for the image of the candidate: this is precisely the power of the New Medias.
Certainly, knowledge of the instrument and the technical skill of its user are indispensable prerequisites for success, but they are not enough: intelligence, intuition, creativity and readiness are always necessary. Even the choice of influencers with whom to interact requires greater political sensitivity, because it relates to the age-old problem of choosing alliances in a political agony. In fact, as Giansante states in La comunicazione politica online, “good web analytics allows you to organise your communication work so as to maximize the return on your communication investment; and this principle governs corporate communication as much as political communication.“2
But what is the reason behind the popularity of the New Medias and what are the consequences of using it?
Social Medias do not eliminate the need for direct contact with the public at all. Users want to see, through computers and smartphones, images of real events: a video message recorded in the studio will never be as effective as a live broadcast among people or a video documenting a real problem or event. It passed from a passive bombing of information to an active one, where it is the person himself who seeks information and interacts through reactions, comments, repost etc…
Finally, there is one last feature that should be emphasized in Socials: their freedom. A freedom that in some countries and circumstances has managed to be very annoying and has been censored. In fact, there have been quite a few cases in which the arrest of people has been accompanied by the blackout of websites and the violation of fundamental rights such as freedom of thought, expression and the press; wherever this occurs, it must concern us because it calls into question the fundamental principles of Democracy. This is the case for example of the new Chinese social network “Tik-Tok”. It has also gone viral in the West. However, it does not correspond to the same Chinese application, in fact, the Asian country has limited its use.
Moreover, it happens more and more often than - in the name of the fight against Fake news - important voices are raised asking for forms of “control”, up to the “censorship” on Socials, to suspend users who publish material judged “not politically correct”. Socials make sense and value if they are free, but not if they are controlled and censored. The rules should serve not to limit this freedom of expression, but to defend it from more or less hidden conditioning. If this freedom is respected, socials become formidable instruments of democracy, much more so than traditional media that do not allow interaction and require great economic resources to be used.
So, what is the constructive purpose of introducing New Medias into society?
The new challenge of social media is the invitation to create a new ruling class that is humbler and more transparent and, above all, willing to share. If this will be the outcome, we can say that political communication through the new media will have proved to be an instrument of education for democracy. And, if the future pushes towards more and more “liquid” and ephemeral information (to take up the concept elaborated by Bauman), communication has the task of bringing “the social swarm” back to a “solid” and concrete form of community.
Attilia Anna Matrone was born in Castellammare di Stabia, Italy. She currently lives in Geneva and works as an INTERN at the UN Library in Archives and Digitization Section. She is finishing her master’s in international Relations at IHEID university; previously, she graduated in Political Science at the LUISS University of Rome. Her fields of specialization are history, politics, religion, international relations and public relations. Good knowledge of the Microsoft package (word, excel, PowerPoint, outlook), Windows, IOS and Android systems. In her free time, she does service with Rotaract association and the youth group of order of Malta.