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Conversations about the elections on Twitter: Towards a structural understanding of Twitter’s relation with the political and the media field

A Research Paper by Pieter Verdegem, published by European Journal of Communication

This study uses network analysis to examine Twitter’s level of autonomy from external influences, being the political and the media field. The conceptual framework builds upon Bourdieu’s field theory, appropriated on social media as mediated social spaces. The study investigates conversation patterns on Twitter between political, media and citizen agents during election times in Belgium. Through the comparison of conversational practices with the positions users hold as political, media or citizen agents, we understand how the former is related to the latter. The analysis of conversation patterns (based on replies and mentions) shows a decentralized and loosely knit network, in which primarily citizen agents are present. Nonetheless, the prominence of citizens in the debate, mentions or replies to political and media agents are significantly higher, placing them more centrally in the network. In addition, politicians and media actors are closely connected within the network, and reciprocal communication of these established agents is significantly lower compared to citizen agents. We understand different aspects of autonomy related to the presence, positions and practices of the agents on Twitter and their relative positions as politicians, media or citizens. To conclude, we discuss the promises of Bourdieu’s relational sociology and the limitations of our study. The approach proposed here is an attempt to integrate existing work and evolve towards a systematic understanding of the interrelations between political, media and citizen agents in a networked media environment.

Access the full text by Evelien D’heer and Pieter Verdegem in The European Journal of Communication.


Photo by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash

Pieter Verdegem


Dr Pieter Verdegem is Reader in Technology and Society in the Westminster School of Media and Communication and member of CAMRI (the Communication and Media Research Institute).

His research investigates the political economy of media and communication and the impact of digital technologies on society.

He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and teaches core undergraduate and postgraduate modules every year.

Prior to joining the Westminster School of Media and Communication, he was Assistant Professor in New Media and ICT in the Department of Communication Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium (2012-2016) and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Informatics and Media, Uppsala University, Sweden (2011-2012). He holds a PhD in Communication Sciences from Ghent University.


7 December 2016
Published By
European Journal of Communication
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CAMRI | Conversations about the elections on Twitter: Towards a structural understanding of Twitter’s relation with the political and the media field - CAMRI
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