Swarming for Democracy – A New Culture in Political Communication?

Just added to the NEMO Research Projects page

Swarming for Democracy – A New Culture in Political Communication?

Hagen Schölzel, PhD, hagen.scholzel@isk.lu.se and Howard Nothhaft, PhD, howard.nothhaft@isk.lu.se

Our project is both a case study on a prominent communicative conflict and a theoretical reflection on communication as a swarming phenomenon. We are analyzing the process leading to the former German defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s resignation on March 01, 2011.

An intense communicative conflict took place during the two weeks preceding this event: An internet-based swarm of several thousand activists engaged in a painstakingly detailed search for plagiarized passages in Guttenberg’s PhD-dissertation. The Wiki they used as an organizational platform and for documentary reasons immediately became a central ‘actor’ in this conflict. It served as a central source of information for journalists as well as for many citizens – with about 10,000,000 page hits in these two weeks.

Arguably, it was this detailed documentation of malpractice, open to all, that finally forced the minister to resign.

The importance of this project lies in its significance for a general development in modern democracy: Conflicts between internet-based swarms and traditional politics seem to announce a new culture in political communication, which challenges recent understandings of politics as well as recent understandings of communication.

Web source: Reflections on a Swarm by two activists of the ‘Guttenplag Wiki’ about their internet-based investigation platform: http://de.guttenplag.wikia.com/wiki/Reflections_on_a_Swarm

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