söndag 17 november 2013

Social media & politics

I read an article in yesterday's morning newspaper (SvD) about "Lobbyists whispering in politicians' ears on Twitter" (different title online for some reason, "Twitter confirms politicians' own world view". It was an ambitious article with complicated graphics and I acutely felt that this could have been the result of a bachelor's or a master's thesis written by students at my department.

Since 2014 is an election year, politics and social media would be an excellent topic for a thesis this spring. I have been the advisor of two theses on the topic of social media and politics:

1) Per Engberg and Tobias Joneby wrote a good bachelor's thesis during the spring of 2010 about metrics and about the results of measuring members of parliament's blogs in terms of popularity, activity etc. They found 126 blogs, they weighted and measured the blogs and also got in touch with 14 random members of parliament. Half of them answered a battery of questions by email. A (to me) quite remarkable results was that few politicians had any clear idea about why they blogged (i.e. they didn't have any specific purpose or formulated goals with their blogging). The (Swedish-language) thesis is called "Blogg: Med metriken i fokus" and it is available online.

2) Meri Kavak presented her bachelor's thesis during the spring of 2012, "Sociala medier i politik - En studie av hur svenska riksdagspartier använder social medier" [Social media in politics - A study of how Swedish political parties are using social media]. Meri chose to interview members of the parliament and she concentrated on two political parties; Moderaterna and Sverigedemokraterna. She got hold of seven politicians and interviewed four of them in their offices in the parliament (the remaining three answered the same questions by mail). Meri's thesis is unfortunately not available on the Internet as she was one of the last students to hand in a thesis in a now-defunct program.

Some years ago (in 2010), I wrote a Swedish-language blog post/thesis proposal called "Den gröna blogosfären" [The green blogosphere] where I suggest thesis topics on mapping the green (environmental) blogosphere in Sweden. Any particular part of the blogosphere (green or otherwise) could be mapped in a variety of different ways and it is of course also possible to have a look at some other part of the blogosphere such as the political blogosphere, the sport or literature blogosphere etc. It is furthermore of course not necessary to look at blogs - any other online space could be of interest to map.

I hope that some students will take the opportunity to write a thesis about social media and politics this coming spring. Based on earlier experiences, a good, topical and timely political-social media-thesis definitely has the opportunity to make it into mainstream media (or at least a press release from KTH).

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