Browsing by Subject "European public sphere"

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  • Semkina, Soili (Helsingfors universitet, 2012)
    The European Union is often argued to be an elite project with which common citizens are not associated. One of the problems is claimed to be the absence of a common public sphere where Europeans can debate societal issues. However, recent developments in communication technology call for rethinking on the European public sphere. The internet provides solutions to many technical obstacles often presented as barriers to transnational debate. The development has beared fruit: There are an increasing number of online publications dealing with the EU or Europe in general. However, the online media’s potential for the European public sphere has not been much researched. This research attempts to fill the gap. The object of this research are European online media that write about the EU or Europe. The main interest is in discovering their possibilities to promote debate on European issues, and the research question is: What kind of a European public sphere do online publications construct? To answer the question, a test model of the European public sphere is constructed based on the descriptive models developed by Erik Eriksen and Marianne van de Steeg. The theory of deliberative public sphere of Jürgen Habermas forms the normative background of this study. In addition, ideas of Chantal Mouffe on agonistic public sphere are elaborated. The developed model is tested in the empirical part. As thorough research has not been conducted previously on the European online media, first a general categorization is made. Fifty online publications are researched and grouped in eight categories. The second phase of empirical research consists of qualitative content analysis. Twelve publications from four categories are analysed. The material comprises news articles on the European sovereign debt crisis. Text samples are analysed with the aid of four indicators actors, topics, sources and virtual contact. One of the most important observations of both categorisation and analysis of the European online media is its diversity in topics, actors or political opinions. The analysis also shows that the debt crisis is a very political topic and holds conflict of interests on the left-wing and right-wing level, contrary to the common claim that the EU is lacking such a political tension. There are only a few references to particular European values even though Europe is the main frame. Also, international news media such as Reuters is often used as a source what indicates to common Western features rather than European features. This applies especially to the online dailies covering the EU issues. Another observation is a sign of an emerging European civic society discovered in the European volunteer and opinion media both of which operate mostly on a volunteer basis. Yet, as citizens play as small role in the debt crisis news coverage, the ideal European public sphere is far from being realised. The European online media is believed to gain more importance and reputation as the online media will develop furher. This research reveals the abundance of it and demonstrates that there is plenty to explore in the Europe Wide Web.
  • Scholz, Svenja (Helsingin yliopisto, 2019)
    After the all-time low voter turnout in the European elections in 2014, the European Parliament faces its legiti-macy being undermined. While the mass media is often made responsible for being a major contributor to the lack of an active political European public sphere where the EU governance can be debated, social media has been considered as a means to connect the European institutions and its citizens through direct communi-cation. From the viewpoint of deliberative democratic theory, the European Parliament can restore legitimacy through engaging citizens in public deliberation and involving them in the European decision-making process. At the same time, political institutions are known for their attempts to generate legitimacy in social media through promotional campaigns that do not stipulate policy impact. This study contributes to the debate about the European public sphere by exploring the motivations behind the European Parliament’s institutional communication on the social networking site Facebook. Its theoreti-cal underpinning hence links together the debates about the EU’s democratic deficit on the one hand, and the democratic potential of social media on the other. Specifically, this research scrutinises how the members of the European Parliament’s Web Communication unit make sense of their work practices on Facebook and which role they ascribe to themselves and other actors in the construction of a European public sphere. The goal is to offer a critical assessment of the European Parliament’s Facebook communication against the back-drop of the normative framework derived from the deliberative theory of public sphere. The qualitative research is based on two data sets: The first data set was collected through participant obser-vation in the European Parliament’s Web Communication unit in February 2018; the second one through eight semi-structured interviews with the Unit’s communication officials working with Facebook. Based on positioning theory, an interpretative interview analysis is conducted. The findings assert that the European Parliament’s Facebook communication must be understood as a politi-cal, top-down, promotional campaign rather than an attempt to engage ordinary citizens in an online delibera-tion. Thus, it does not provide for a systematic political bottom-up policy impact. The findings hence support the view that the narrative of social media connecting political actors and the citizens is most of all put forward to legitimise political promotion. This study moreover emphasises a liberal representative understanding rather than a deliberative understanding of European democracy within the European Parliament’s administration. Accordingly, the role of the European Parliament web communication officials in the European public sphere is to substitute the weak media coverage about the Parliament and raise aware-ness about its benefits to the voters.