Social network sites: an innovative form of political communication? A socio-technical approach to media innovation
Keywords:Political Communication, Media Innovations, Social Media, Social Network Sites, Practices, Technology, Context
This article’s objective is to explore the interrelations between social media technology and users in order to assess whether and how actors drive innovation. I am interested in understanding how social media technology configure users, how users reconfigure technologies to meet their needs and what users do with social media technology. The mainstream perspective on politicians who use social media has been based on the premise that social media technology is, by nature, an innovative tool and that politicians are not using it to its full potential. However I argue that technology is not innovative by nature and further that emerging practices are actually accompanying the use of social media by political actors but that those practices are related to the collaborative production of speech and rearrangement of editorial rules in political communication. Thus the bulk of the paper is devoted to showing that, through the use of social media technology, media and political communication are converging. The article builds upon examples from the use of social media technology by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). I provide empirical insights into how Members of the European Parliament and their staff adapt to social media technology while using it in a creative way and how uses contribute to changes in the technology itself. This article is empirically grounded and aims at providing examples to highlight the role of actors in defining and developing innovation in the field of media technology. The argument of the paper is that innovation in media technology takes place at the level of practices. Yet new and old practices are interfering as more established practices meet social media technology, challenging the notion of newness and pointing out to the role and influence of the institutional context on innovation. This article finally outlines some of the existing claims made for the innovative potential of social media regarding politics and lays out a number of issues and questions that should lead us to be wary about celebratory accounts.
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