University students’ attitudes toward social media as an arena for political deliberation. A qualitative attitude approach

by Iiris Lagus

Institution: University of Helsinki
Year: 2016
Keywords: Viestintä
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2070834
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/161230


Since its creation the internet and especially SNSs (Social Networking Sites, e.g. Facebook, Twitter) have faced high expectations of political deliberation in the academic discussion. Empirical research has found both positive and negative evidence of online deliberation, although the majority of the research gives a rather discouraging image of internet’s potential to enhance political deliberation. The aim of this thesis is to examine the potential of social media to serve as an arena for deliberation by looking at the attitudes toward the deliberative ideal. The research questions are the following. To what extent people see social media as a platform for political deliberation? When do people share their political or societal opinions online? What are the motivations behind the decisions of taking part to the discussion, that is, sharing societal or political opinions online? Theoretical framework stems from the deliberative democracy theory. Deliberative democracy is a conception of democracy that underscores rational-critical discussion as a source of democratic legitimacy. John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas are often regarded as the most notable political writers of the last century and their writings have influenced greatly the deliberative democracy theory. In the theory section, Rawls’ and Habermas’ accounts regarding deliberation will be presented before taking a look at the deliberative democracy online. Empirically the study utilises the qualitative attitude approach method (Vesala and Rantanen, 2007). In qualitative attitude approach attitudes are understood as stances that are constructed in human interaction. Qualitative attitude approach utilises its own empirical methodology. It is based on semi-structured interviews that consist of attitude statements. The presumption is that attitudes can be examined by analysing the verbal expressions. The interview data is analysed as a commentary that consists of comments and their reasoning. For this study, ten students were interviewed about their attitudes toward social media as an arena for political deliberation. The results reflect the previous research. Participants agreed with the deliberative ideal but in practice they saw many obstacles for political deliberation online. When participating in online deliberation was evaluated positively, the reasons were that participating is important, political discussion online is educational, fun and easier as political discussion face-to-face and that by participating one can find support for own views. When participating in online deliberation was evaluated negatively, the reasons were fear of criticism, unwillingness to cause controversy, lack of interest and increased level of self-awareness. Akateemisen keskustelun piirissä internetiin ja erityisesti sosiaalisen median palveluihin on kohdistettu suuria toiveita poliittisen deliberaation edistämisestä. Empiirinen tutkimus on osoittanut näille toiveille jotakin näyttöä, joskin suuri osa tuloksista ei ole ollut internetin tai sosiaalisen median…