IRC16 - Proposed Session - #PoliticsOnSocialMedia

Posted by Sumandro Chattapadhyay at Dec 13, 2015 06:00 AM |
This is a session proposed for the Internet Researchers' Conference (IRC) 2016 by Dr. Rinku Lamba and Dr. Rajarshi Dasgupta, with Dr. Mohinder Singh, Professor Valerian Rodrigues and Professor Shefali Jha as co-members.



Indian politics had witnessed the entry of new social movements in the 1970s, adding a whole set of new issues, actors, and ways of activism to the older nationalist tradition. We suggest a similar change is now taking place, as different ways of governance and interventions aided by latest technologies are emerging in the social media. Websites, blogs, tweets, emails and online petitions are creating a new virtual space for politics, through information, propaganda, debates, appeals and mobilizations.

The proposed session will discuss this emerging field of power, critically considering its democratic potential and interrogating the political issues and ideas at stake in it. The aim is to tackle the new forms of civic and public-political engagements witnessed in the domain of social media, and analyze their implications for the theory and practice of democracy. In the process our papers would explore conceptual notions such as agency, political act and participation as well as notions of selfhood and subjectivity.



We will present four papers, with a question-answer and discussion session at the end. The papers will be addressing broadly three kinds of concerns.

  • The first concern is to identify novel understandings of the political and political acts in the social media. We ask the following questions in this regard: What are the political issues and ideas at stake and how do they affect conventional understandings of democracy? Who are the new actors outside the fray of party-centered politics and how do they see what is political in the acts of internet-users? How are political institutions including parties reacting to the phenomena?

  • The second concern relates to probing the new forms of political subjectivity that are emerging in this process. The questions here include: What kind of political actor is getting shaped by the forms of political participation engendered by the social media? How does the virtual nature of practice impact on questions of location and identity as determinants of political membership and political action? Is this nature of virtual participation too fluid for the state to control?

  • The third concern relates to the forms of exclusion and inclusion that virtual participation entails. This involves questions like: What kind of social capital is necessary for talking part in the process and does it cut across cultural and economic divisions? What kinds of interest drive the social media? How does it shape the meaning of political concepts like representation and rights, accountability and political agency?

It is likely that we will raise more questions than we can answer at this point. However, we think it is important to raise them all the more in keeping with the questions that make up the focus of the conference, especially, the first question of how do we conceptualize, as an intellectual and political task, the mediation and transformation of social, cultural, political, and economic processes, forces, and sites through internet and digital media technologies in contemporary India.






Sumandro Chattapadhyay

As a Director at CIS, I co-lead the researchers@work programme, and engage with academic and policy research on data governance and digital economy. I can be reached at sumandro[at]cis-india[dot]org.