The Digital Age: A New Horizon For Political Communication?

The continuous development of media outlets has changed, and will continue to change the way people consume and produce political information. This change involves the introduction of amateur journalism and blogging which comes with it’s own set of pros and cons. Technology and social media has started to make the boundary between politics and entertainment a little fuzzy. In recent years the internet has allowed for people of all sorts of different demographics, political stances, and beliefs to connect and converse. This has been a huge leap for democracy in an age where people no longer have time to meet and discuss such things in person. In our digital age the relationship between politics and the public is evolving, it has become less linear and more of a back and fourth type of engagement.

Over time, running a presidential campaign has changed a great deal. A candidate could tailor speeches to different audiences in order to secure votes from multiple demographics. However, as technology developed, candidates were sort of pushed into a corner in which they had to be more authentic. They could no longer tell one group of people they were going to do one thing, then tell another group they were going to do the other because speeches and promises were being broadcasted over the radio and eventually television. Politicians soon adapted to this by learning the framework of the mainstream news media and used it to their advantage.

Now, the internet and social media are mixing things up again. Instead of the one way, linear sort of relationship between politicians and citizens there is a more two way, responsive, and participatory relationship emerging. Anything politicians do or say can be posted online. Once it is online it becomes fair game to be turned into the plethora of remixed content being viewed, liked, and shared by millions. Politicians also face the pressure of potentially being recorded at all times while in public. They never know when the words they say will end up posted all over the internet, in or out of context. Problems typically suffered by celebrities are slowly transferring over to the political realm. Who would have guessed President Obama and Kim Kardashian could have something in common? But as we continue to advance into this digital age, we see a more publicized and dramatized version of politics. For example the presidential debates that have occurred in the last few months have had elements that felt slightly similar to reality television. Slowly but surely the lines between entertainment and politics are blurring. This barrier isn't the only one that has begun breaking down in the postmodern era, the boundaries between creator and consumer have become even less defined.

With the rise of the internet there has been a loss of control by producers in that technology has made it possible for consumers to also join in the production process. This concept is not exempt in the case of politics and the news. In Political Communication Research in the Digital Age by Michael Soha and Joshua Meyrowits it is said that “the fundamental process of political communication is changing dramatically as more and more people take on the multiple roles of broadcaster, audience member, curator, editor, commentator, distributor, and content creator”. Journalistic news reporting can be put into the hands of the amateur online. This can be a little scary because it allows for a larger margin of error in reporting facts and finding reliable sources becomes more difficult. On the other hand, having news sources outside of the mainstream news media allows for the reporting of news that doesn't fit into the mainstream framework of “newsworthy” information. This often includes cutting out news reported for political or corporate agendas. Another positive side to this amateur reporting is that political minorities are given a place to connect.

Online, individuals who don't share the dominant political views with people in their geographical location can connect and work together on ideas that they wouldn't typically be able to. Because of this new connection many alternative parties and causes have sprouted up over the last few years. The internet has turned out to be a massive savior to democratic behavior in an age where people don't have time to physically sit down with others to discuss ideas. Because we can all carry the internet around on our phones, we can use the brief minutes of spare time between tasks to check in on what is going on in the world and discuss it with others, whether they are physically with us or not. And in a time where getting young people involved in politics is like pulling teeth, developments like that make it just a little bit easier. Many people think that our constant ability to be connected is endangering our potential to communicate with others, but in some respects, it just might be the only thing saving it. Political communication in our digital age is certainly different than it used to be, but it has to be able to keep up as our society and culture adapt to constantly updating technology.