Course Syllabus: Emerging Media and Contentious Politics

Department of Communication

University of Vienna

Summer Semester 2017
Monday 15:00-18:00
March 27, April 24, May 15, May 29, June 19
Seminarraum 2H316, UZA II Rotunde

Dr. Matthew Barnidge, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.

Office: Room 3.05, UZA II Rotunde

Office hours: By appointment


Course Description

According to news headlines, the world is more divided and politics are more contentious than ever before. This course will take a closer look at the concept of contentious politics — and give you the tools to critically interpret political news and information in both traditional and social media. We’ll examine the causes of political extremism, the rise of identity politics in the Western world, and some of the new forms of political participation made possible in the digital era. The overarching goal is to help you become critical, engaged citizens able to not only reflect on how your own views are shaped by the media environment around you, but also to respect and understand those who hold opposing political views from your own.

The first section of the course introduces key concepts, including contentious politics, the public sphere, and media effects. In the second section, the course builds on these conceptual foundations to look at whether and how people “hear the other side” in political communication. In the third section, the course shifts to focus on social identity, expression, and lifestyle politics. Finally, the last section surveys emerging trends in protest politics and political participation.

Class Website

The syllabus and course readings can be accessed at any time on the class website:


Your primary work product in this class will be your bachelor’s thesis. The thesis must be at least 30 pages in length (12-point font, Times New Roman), and consist of three parts (a) concept, (b) method, and © proposal. These sections are described in further detail below. You must turn in your thesis via email ( by 12:00 noon on June 30. No exceptions.

Concept Section: The concept section should be between 15–20 pages. In this section, you should (a) pose a research question involving one or more communication concepts, (b) review the previous literature on these concepts, © engage in a meaning analysis of the concepts that develops the dimensions and indicators of each, (d) enumerate conceptual and operational definitions for each concept, and (e) propose a theory (i.e., an explanation or description of the relationship) about the concepts based on the previous literature and your meaning analysis. If you would like, you may structure the section in five parts that reflects each of the tasks above.

Method Section: The second section should be between 5–10 pages. You should (a) propose a method (e.g., survey, experiment, extended interviews, ethnography) that is appropriate for testing your theory, (b) describe the target population, sampling strategy, and study procedures, © propose measures for your key variables, and (d) propose an analytic technique that is appropriate to test your specific hypotheses. If you would like, you may structure the section in four parts that reflects each of the tasks above.

Proposal Section: The third section should be approximately 5 pages. The section should (a) describe your plan for collecting data (e.g., online survey through SSI/Qualtrics) and the timeframe in which it will be collected, (b) describe any additional materials that will be needed (e.g., eye-tracking equipment, web-tracking software), © describe any other people involved in the study (e.g., coders, confederates, surveyors, co-authors), (d) enumerate potential costs and your plan for funding the study (e.g., scholarship, grant), and (e) present a plan for submitting the article to a conference (e.g., ICA or WAPOR) or a journal (e.g., Journal of Communication, International Journal of Public Opinion Research).

Class Policies

Absence and Participation: Absences are excused only in the case of medically documented reasons. Class participation is mandatory. Students are expected not only to show up to class, but also to be prepared to demonstrate their understanding of the readings with original commentary.

Collaboration and Independence: All work in this course should be completed independently, and materials turned in should be the result of one’s own independent work.

Plagiarism/Self-plagiarism: All writing compositions turned in must be original work. To copy text or ideas from another source (including your own previously, or concurrently, submitted course work) without appropriate reference is plagiarism and will result in a failing grade for your assignment and possibly further disciplinary action. For additional information on plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and how to avoid it, see, for example:

Class Schedule and Required Readings

Week 1 (March 27)

Lecture 1: Contentious Politics and the Contemporary Public Sphere

1) “Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics.” By S. Aday, H. Farrell, M. Lynch, J. Sides, J. Kelly, & E. Zuckerman.

2) “The Virtual Sphere 2.0: The Internet, the Public Sphere, and Beyond.” By Z. Papacharissi.

3) “The Hybrid Media System.” By A. Chadwick.

Lecture 2: Media Effects in Politics

1) “Framing, Agenda Setting, and Priming: The Evolution of Three Media Effects Models.” By D. A. Scheufele and D. Tewksbury.

2) “A New Era of Minimal Effects? The Changing Foundations of Political Communication.” By W. L. Bennett and S. Iyengar.

3) “A New Era of Minimal Effects? A Response to Bennett and Iyengar.” By R. L. Holbert, R. K. Garrett, and L. S. Gleason.

Week 2 (April 24)

Concept Explication Exercise in Class

Lecture 3: “Hearing the Other Side” & Media Trust/Bias

1) “Facilitating Communication across Lines of Political Difference: The Role of Mass Media.” By D. C. Mutz and P.S. Martin.

2) “Polarization and Partisan Selective Exposure.” By N. J. Stroud.

3) “Encountering ‘‘Difference’’ in the Contemporary Public Sphere: The Contribution of the Internet to the Heterogeneity of Political Discussion Networks.” By J. Brundidge.

4) “When We Stop Talking Politics: The Maintenance and Closing of Conversation in Contentious Times.” By C. Wells et al.

5) “The Hostile Media Phenomenon: Biased Perception and Perceptions of Media Bias in Coverage of the Beruit Massacre.” By R. P. Vallone, L. Ross, and M. R. Lepper.

6) “The Third-Person Effect in Communication.” By W.P. Davison.

7) “The Role of Media Distrust in Partisan Voting.” By J. M. Ladd.

Lecture 4: Concept Explication

1) McLeod, J. M. & Pan, Z. Concept explication and theory construction.

Week 3 (May 15)

Observable Implications Exercise in class

Lecture 5: Social Identity, Lifestyle Politics, and Political Polarization

1) “From Social to Political Identity: A Critical Examination of Social Identity Theory.” By L. Huddy.

2) “The UnCivic Culture: Communication, Identity, and the Rise of “Lifestyle” Politics.” By W. L. Bennett.

3) “Putting Inequality in its Place: Rural Consciousness and the Power of Perspective.” By K. Cramer Walsh.

4) “The Wealth of Networks.” Chapter 1. By Y. Benkler.

5) “Affective News and Networked Publics: The Rhythms of News Storytelling on #Egypt.” By Z. Papacharissi & M. de Fatima Oliveira.

6) “Affect, not Ideology: A Social Identity Perspective on Polarization.” By S. Iyengar, G. Sood, and Y. Lelkes.

Lecture 6: Observable Implications

1) Popper, K. excerpt from Science: Conjectures and Refutations.

2) King, G., Keohane, R. O., & Verba, S. Designing Social Inquiry. Chapter 1.

Week 4 (May 29)

Measurement Exercise in class

Lecture 7: Social Movements and Protest Politics

1) “The Logic of Connective Action: Digital Media and the Personalization of Contentious Politics.” By W. L. Bennett & A. Segerberg.

2) “Reflections on #Occupy Everywhere: Social Media, Public Space, and Emerging Logics of Aggregation.” By J. S. Juris.

3) “Politics in the Supermarket: Political Consumerism as a Form of Political Participation.” By D. Stolle, M. Hooghe, & M. Micheletti.

4) “Social Media and Social Movements: Facebook and an Online Guatemalan Justice Movement that Moved Offline.” By S. Harlow.

Lecture 8: Observation and Inference

1) King, G., Keohane, R. O., & Verba, S. Designing Social Inquiry.

Week 5 (June 19)

Interpreting Results exercise in class

Lecture 9: Social Revolution

1) “Revolutions and Collective Violence.” By C. Tilly.

2) “Preliminary Exam Summary: States and Social Revolutions.” By E. Bevis, summary of T. Skocpol.

3) “Social Media in the Egyptian Revolution: Reconsidering Resource Mobilization Theory.” By N. Eltantawy and J. B. Wiest.

Lecture 10: Data Visualization

No readings