New Media and the Political Processes: Changing Models of Political Communication
Media has always contributed to the political discourse. Technological changes in communication bring apparent challenges for the political sphere, where the new media contributes to the emergence of virtual public spaces of a networked character. With the advent of new information and communication technologies, some prospects and potentials of the new (social) media are revealed, and must be considered with regard to citizens and political engagement. The current transformation in terms of citizen participation and deliberation involves the normative problems of legitimating a democracy, which recently became a focal point in the academic debate. Speaking broadly, with the advent of new information and communication technologies in contemporary society, a number of ongoing challenges are observed: liberal democracies are facing a crisis of legitimacy, public trust and understanding; the media uses decentralized, grassroots communication forms in its content; social media tools provide opportunities for meaningful civic engagement and political participation; and the social dimension is becoming part of media streams and moves the communicative power away from singular, dominant sources of communication. Online participation is increasingly spread out—the levels of activity are not as high as in traditional offline activities, but are not negligible. Overall, there are still questions as to who actively participates in these activities, whether the typical participatory biases of traditional participation are reproduced in the online sphere, and whether the new media (as a collective, user-generated, unmediated platform) has the same impact as the traditional media. Therefore, my research agenda is concentrated on new media developments in young democratic countries (e.g., the Baltic States), and aims to give a clear and focused explanation of what makes new media developments as well as audience media performance in these countries so different from online media developments in the West by targeting contextual particularities of new media applications and usage patterns, and focusing on the potential that new media holds to activate, catalyse and mobilize responsible citizenship and governance online.