Interview with the editors: Jeffrey Wimmer, Cornelia Wallner, Rainer Winter, and Karoline Oelsner
Can you please present the varieties of participation discussed in the book?
The book consists of three main sections. The first deals with the question of how citizens, and especially the so-called digital natives, engage politically in their everyday life, what possibilities they experience and how they realize them. The second tries to show the wide scope of mediated participation and its inherent complexity by taking a look at entirely different media contexts, ranging from traditional media like the press, to the special case of talk shows, or the highly contested public sphere of Twitter. The last section discusses how the emergence of online media changes the concept of political participation.
What is the original contribution of this book?
Going beyond established academic discourses about the decline of citizens’ political participation in institutional politics, and the rise of alternative forms of political participation, this book aims to explore the issues, the platforms, the actions, the locations, and the motivations of politically active citizens today. It discusses the opportunities and challenges that new conditions entail for the ways in which digitally mediated social interactions, practices and environments shape everyday participation, engagement or protest, and analyses their implications for politics, culture and society.
Jeffrey Wimmer, Cornelia Wallner, Rainer Winter, Karoline Oelsner
How do you think (Mis)Understanding Political Participation can be important for other areas of research on media and communications?
From an analytical point of view participation is a moving target. Participation and engagement must not be confined to the political sphere. Hence, although participation and engagement can be researched as a case sui generis, it sharpens the blurred picture to contextualize political participation in the light of current processes of change, especially considering the last push of mediatisation through digitalization. Following researchers like Nico Carpentier, Peter Dahlgren or Anne Kaun, the book displays that the current preoccupation in media and communication studies with engagement and participation is characterized by a more analytically differentiated view than ever.
Do you feel this is a timely publication in terms of public debates?
For approximately 25 years it has been the epistemological interest of a constantly growing research area inside communication and media studies as well as pedagogy, political science and sociology, on how the new forms of participation are used and how they could be judged in comparison to the traditional forms of civic engagement and participation. The current practices of engagement and participation are currently more than ever characterized by huge ambiguities. Public participation always involves questions of power, conflict as well as (in)equality, which are addressed by our book.
How was the process of the ECREA book series and how important was it for your publication?
The book project would not have been thinkable without the ECREA being the organisational frame of reference. The idea for it was born in a conference by the Communication and Democracy Section in Munich some years ago. The fruitful discussions during and after the event led us to the idea of an anthology which tries to give a pan-European and transmedia view on current practices of participation and engagement. The call and the subsequent rigorous reviewing process helped us a lot to sharpen our overall proposal and the different chapters. On the other we hope that the book represents the transnational and interdisciplinary focus of ECREA, and especially the C&D section.
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