School of Social and Political Sciences - Research Publications

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    A comparative analysis of political email lists
    CHEN, PETER (Centre for Public Policy, 2004)
    Utilising three similar, but slightly different Australian general political email discussion lists, this paper examines the degree to which these lists, as a new form of 'public sphere' (Dahlberg, 2001) can be seen to undertake, or fulfil, the 'traditional' functions of political associations (formal and informal),specifically: political socalisation, aggregation, and mobilisation. Using a combination of content analysis, observation, and network analysis to examine the content of messages travelling over these lists and the social community they embody, this paper concludes that these lists do fulfil important political socialisation functions, but do not provide the means by which political interlocutors can turn this social bonding and education into practical political expression. While each list had significant similarities, it appears that important "bracing" factors lead to the success or otherwise of lists as lively places for debate. In particular, the role of moderation and promotion is critical in the establishment of political discussion lists that develop enough 'critical mass' to sustain a community of interest large enough to appear self-replicating. The research points to the important relationship between online political forms of expression and extant political organisations, structures, and institutions for further research.
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    e-lection 2004? New media and the campaign
    CHEN, PETER ( 2004)
    This paper explores the use of new media technologies, such as the Internet, in the Australian federal election campaign of 2004. With indications of a closely-contested campaign dominating media coverage in the lead up to October 9, normal assumptions of campaign strategies would call for the use of the full range of campaigning techniques to pry open pockets of support in key marginal seats. Internationally, new media technologies have become increasingly important in political campaigning, both as a tool for direct communication between partisans and electors, and as a particularly powerful method of networking together people, money, and issues. Based on research conducted on parties, candidates, and non-party activists, this paper argues that the use of new technologies in the Australian electoral environment remains limited and, in some aspects, has declined from the previous electoral cycle. This can be attributed to a number of factors: fundamental difficulties in aligning new communications channels to Australia's political geography, low perceptions of the efficacy of new technologies in shifting electors' voting intentions, and the failure by organised political parties to systematically resource and strategise new media technologies within their conventional communications and campaigning strategies. Overall, while a number of interesting campaigning innovations were observed and individual candidates had a greater online presence in this electoral cycle, innovation in the use of new technologies for political purposes has remained relatively low compared with comparative jurisdictions.