Electoral Entertainment

As the 2016 Presidential race begins to creep into the social agenda of Americans everywhere, there is a need to analyze the relation of technological advancement and political discourse. As the post-modern perspective continues to gain traction, there is an indisputable connection between the pageantry of politics and the advance in technology’s role in our daily interactions. Professors Michael Soha and Joshua Meyrowitz from the University of New Hampshire investigate this phenomenon in their publication, Political Communication Research in the Digital Age. The highlight of their argument is that there has been a transition from a centralized mass media that broadcasted to everyone towards a networked society that is maintained by everyone. The implications have forced us to reconsider the approaches taken towards traditional political communication. Soha and Meyrowitz say:

“Within the context of the shifting paradigm from mass to networked communication, key emergent issues and areas of political communication research are examined including: digital news and information flows, anti-institutional politics, online publics and fragmentation of the public sphere, shifting relationships between political actors and constituents, changing perceptions of leaders through social media, the blurring of entertainment and politics in viral and other media, the blurring of entertainment and politics in viral and other media, and the emergence of a global networked arena. (Meyrowitz/Soha, 2015.)

The traditional system of political communication has been resistant to evolve with communication media. Soha and Meyrowitz quote Steve Chafee and John Hochheimer, who foresaw this resiliency in the 1980’s when they said:

“[Political Communication] looks at politics and voting as the sum of individual interactions with the media, “opinion-leaders” and so forth, rather than the social networks through wchich information and influence flow. (Chafee & Hochheimer, 1985, pp. 272.)

These political interactions came to face a stark reality… evolve or become obsolete.

The loss of clear distinction between political idealism and entertainment coupled with the unprecedented access to candidates provided by the Internet has left politicians scrambling to redefine their campaigns. This has spurred the commissioning of large-scale research focused on media advancements’ impact on various forms of interaction. This has given rise to convergence culture, which is “the flow of traditional mass-media content through social media networks [that] allows users not only to customize and curate information, but also to add their voice to contextualize, comment or critique.” (Meyrowitz/Soha, 2015.) The forced convergence is a result of festering distrust in the traditional master narrative that defines the modernist/institutional frame of thinking.

The future is not certain, but one thing is clear, the political landscape is evolving to a point of late-modernism, which can be varies in public perception from exciting to frightening across the globe.