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Master Programme in Social Sciences-Digital Media and Society

Department of Informatics and Media
Uppsala University
MCS/Organizations and Communication in Global Society (2IVII)

FINAL ASSIGNEMENT
Mediatization of Politics: The Role of ICTs in Women Empowerment
Rüschenschmidt Christine
Strati Maria

Supervisor: Josef Pallas

March 2014
Uppsala

Table of Contents
Introduction ................................................................................................................................................................................. 3
Theoretical Framework ............................................................................................................................................................... 5
I.

Media Logic and Mediatization ..................................................................................................................................... 5

II.

Mediatization of Politics and Production of News Media ............................................................................................. 6

III.

ICTs and Gender ............................................................................................................................................................ 8

IV.

Network Politics and the Role of ICTs in Women Empowerment ................................................................................ 8

Methodology ............................................................................................................................................................................... 9
Conclusions ............................................................................................................................................................................... 12
References ................................................................................................................................................................................. 15

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ABSTRACT: Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) shape the
communication practices among individuals and organizations. The omnipresence of
media led to the interrelation of politics and media. The strong dependence of media and
politics could be described by the concept of mediatization of politics. Political
organizations have been urged to incorporate ICTs in their daily activities and adapt to the
communication norms of the new media platforms. Moreover, media technologies may
give a voice to some social groups, such as women, to debate about politics. The goal of
this paper is to examine whether the ICTs may contribute to women empowerment to
advocate for gender issues and participate in the political life.
Key words:mediatization, politics, new media, ICTs, women, European Women’s Lobby.

Introduction
Media and especially social networking platforms formulate an essential part of daily life. In
specific, the media landscape affects the relations between individuals, organizations and other
kinds of social institutions, such as politics. Moreover, media influences the behavior and
communication practices between individuals and organizations. In general, the concept of
“mediatization” describes the strong influence of media on the society (Hjarvard, 2013).
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are one of the most important
mediatization components since they lead to the emergence of new communication norms. It
could be asserted that the modern society has profited from the rabid development of ICTs in the
fields of communication, information spread and networking. However, the modern society
should face the emerging challenges of the information society, such as the increased dependence
of society on internet access and adequate computer skills (Miller, 2011). Precisely, on the one
hand some social groups that are limited represented in the political life, such as women, could
be empowered through ICTs to advocate and promote their concerns by producing and sharing
information. On the other hand, some individuals might be excluded from the online debate,
either because they do not have access to internet or they do not know how to use ICTs or they
are not aware of the communication rules within the online communities (Van Dijk, 2012). For
instance, women have less digital skills and fewer opportunities for computer training in
comparison to men. As a consequence, women could be excluded partially from online debates
and content generation (Ramilo et al., 2005).
Our study was focused on the following research question: could ICTs operate as a tool
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for women empowerment and active political participation of women in the decision-making
procedures? The study has focused on the above question for the following reasons. Firstly,
women are usually excluded from the political debate due to the existing social infrastructures
and cultural norms. In specific, women are still a minority in decision-making bodies in many
parts of the world, i.e. Europe, USA, Africa, Asia, even though they constitute almost 50% of the
whole population1. One of the main assumptions of the study is that new media technologies may
function as a gathering space where women may express their concerns and debate about topics
that directly concern them. Moreover, stakeholders and organizations related to women
empowerment may exchange ideas and good practices. The main research goal of this paper was
to examine the role of ICTs in women empowerment within the framework of the mediatization
of politics.
The topic has been studied theoretically and empirically. The theoretical background is
based on the concepts of mediatization and network politics2. The empirical part of the study has
been based mainly on participant observation. In specific, the topic was studied
(n)ethnographically by participating actively and following the activity of the Facebook page of
the European Women’s Lobby's (EWL)3. (N)etnography is a research methodology which
permits us to understand individuals’ behavior in the online environment (Miller & Horst, 2012).
Specifically, we have been observing the activity within the Facebook page of the EWL for one
month (17 February- 14 March 2014). In addition, the research data have been complemented by
three synchronous facebook-chat interviews with three active female community members and
an asynchronous email interview with the communication officer of the EWL, Elvira Buijink.
The EWL is the biggest European network of organizations and associations dealing with gender
issues and women’s rights. The EWL aims to promote women’s rights and gender equality. In
addition, among the main goals of the EWL is to endorse the participation of women in decisionmaking and raise awareness about the issue of women violence.
Firstly, the theoretical framework will be presented. The basic concepts which will be
discussed are media logic, mediatization, news media production, ICTs and gender, network
politics and the role of ICTs in women empowerment. Secondly, the methodology part will be
1

World Bank Indicators: W Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments
(%)http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SG.GEN.PARL.ZS Retrieved, 26 March 2014.
2
The emergence of network politics is an outcome of the network structure of the society (Van Dijk, 2012).
3
The official website of EWL: www.womenlobby.org

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illustrated. Finally, the results and final conclusion will be presented.

Theoretical Framework

I.

Media Logic and Mediatization
Media has an impact on the daily life practices, such as, social networks construction and
communication between organizations and individuals. Specifically, media has been an essential
part of individuals’ life over the last thirty years (Krotz, 2009). As a consequence, media logic
has been incorporated in the routine of many organizations. Generally speaking, the term “media
logic” is referred to the particular modus operandi and characteristics of media and its influence
in other social institutions, i.e. politics. In other words, media logic could be described as a set of
guidelines of how media institutions are supposed to operate, i.e. content production and
distribution (Hjarvard, 2013). It could be affirmed that media logic influences the relation,
interaction and communication between organizations and institutions because of the increased
production and distribution of content. Moreover, media influence and are influenced by other
institutions as well (Miller, 2011). An illuminating example is the performance of political
communication in the media landscape (Hjarvard, 2013).
Altheide and Snow (1979) argue that media logic focuses on media formats: “how
material is organized, the style in which it is presented, the focus or emphasis on particular
characteristics of behavior, and the grammar of media communication” (Altheide& Snow, 1991
in Lundby, 2009). Media logic is embedded in social and cultural expressions of modern
societies through the mediatization process. Hjarvard (2013) defines mediatization as the process
that assists the dependence of society on media and their logic. The procedure of media inclusion
in the social landscape is characterized by the following duality. Firstly, media have been
integrated into the operations of several social institutions. Secondly, media have obtained the
status of social institutions as well (Hjarvard, 2013). Consequently, social interaction within an
institution, between institutions and generally in the society as whole is held in media.
The concept of mediatization has been applied to many studies in the field area of media
and communication studies in order to outline the response of different types of organizations to
media logic principles. It would be interesting to examine how and whether media may intervene
in social interaction among individuals within a particular social institution (mirco level) or
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between institutions (mezzo level) or in society at large (macro level) (Schillemans, 2012; Krotz,
2007; Thorbjørnsrud et al., 2012). As it has previously been mentioned, the empirical part of the
research was focused on the facebook page of the EWL. The particular case study is focused on
the micro level and the interaction between individuals and ICTs.
The emergence of new media technologies altered the communication practices between
individuals and institutions. Furthermore, the online media technologies influence the content of
traditional media channels since individuals are highly exposed to the online environment at a
daily basis. In other words, it could be highlighted that the new media and communication
technologies are omnipresent (Lundby, 2009), intertwined with social life practices and the
production of news media both online and offline.

II. Mediatization of Politics and Production of News Media
Media forms a political power in all major societies and empires since they have the resources to
produce and diffuse information about politics (Hjarvard, 2013). Castells (2013) defines politics
as a power allocation procedure within different institutions and organizations. In the context of
the modern democracy, the exercise of political power is strongly associated with popular
consent and active civic participation (Hjarvard, 2013). As a result, both traditional and new
media play a key role in shaping the public opinion based on the generated information
(Hjarvard, 2013). Generally speaking, the main role of media is to provide information about
politics and thus serve the democracy (Hjarvard, 2013).
The term “mediatization of politics” may describe the relation between media and politics
(Hjarvard, 2013). Implementing an institutional perspective in our analysis we may regard the
alteration of structural relationships between politics and media and comprehend the effects on
the changing role of political actors and the formation of political content through media
(Hjarvard, 2013). Hjarvard (2013) distinguishes the formal and informal political practices. The
formal political practices refer to parliaments, parties and election campaigns and the informal to
conversations among ordinary citizens about the political life. Mediatization of politics suggests
that media integrate gradually into the practices of political organization. An outstanding
example is the distinguished communication tone on different media platforms, i.e. website,
blogs and social networking platforms, because each media product is created for different
purposes.
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Specifically, Strömbäck’s (2008) model portrays the evolution of mediatization and its
impact on politics in four phases. The first phase takes into consideration the mediation of
politics, a factor that establishes media as the primary information source. The second phase
suggests that the dependence of media and politics becomes stronger. Then, in the third phase
political institutions start incorporating the demands of media logic in their working routine. In
other words, political institutions tend to communicate based on news criteria and journalistic
deadlines. Finally, in the fourth phase, the political institutions adopt the media logic. One of the
major effects is the influence of media on the agenda setting, i.e. development of political ideas
and priorities (Hjarvard, 2013). Nevertheless, the relation between media and politics is more
complex since there are different types of dependence between media and political institutions
(Hjarvard, 2013).
In the information society both traditional and new media play an important role in
formulating the power structures in the political arena. Politicians, organizations and political
leaders who have no presence in the media landscape do not exist in the consciousness of the
general public (Castells, 2013). The production of news media and framing may influence the
political discourse online and offline (Schultz; Suddaby; Cornelissen, 2014) by shaping the
views of the citizens. Cook (1998) suggests that new media may influence politics and also that
the new media are more independent from political institutions in comparison to traditional
media. Additionally, Cook’s (1998) analysis affirms that new media have become a sort of
political institution within the society. In consequence, the political stakeholders should adapt to
the cultural norms of new media platforms. New media technologies provide a unique
opportunity to users to produce, share and consume content simultaneously (Van Dijk, 2012).
Individuals who participate in online debates may exchange views and develop their arguments
about different political topics. Moreover, individuals may communicate directly or indirectly
with several organizations and decision-making bodies.
News media production about politics may shape the perception of citizens about
decision-making bodies and organizations, i.e. national parliaments. In specific, the generation of
news media is based on a set of guidelines of what kind of message should be disseminated and
how. The main objective of the news media is to target a certain audience, i.e. citizens and
policy-makers(Pallas; Jonsson; Strannegård, 2014). Apart from journalists, there are also other
players in the field of news production, such as PR and communication experts (Hjarvard, 2013).
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News media production is more oriented towards gaining legitimacy than providing accurate
information (Schultz; Suddaby; Cornelissen, 2014). Organizations which have a general goal to
promote a specific cause, such as women empowerment tend to focus the production of news
media on the principles of volume and timing so that to acquire legitimacy. Volume refers
basically to the production of stories about an organization based on the principles of media
landscape, i.e. exposure and visibility (Caroll&Deephouse, 2014). Timing concerns the time
frame in which the topic that is going to be broadcasted is still relevant (Schultz; Suddaby;
Cornelissen, 2014).

III.

ICTs and Gender
New information and communication technologies have not only technical but also social
implications. However, due to existing power relations in society the positive changes and the
benefits from ICTs do not reach everyone (Castells, 2013). Hence ICTs are not gender neutral
(Gurumurthy, 2004) since women have fewer opportunities for computer training in comparison
to men (Huyer, 2005 in 1f; Ramiloer al., 2005: 2f). In this study, the term gender is not referred
to the biological attributes but to social attributes. Specifically, gender is a social construction
which divides society in two groups which are highly connoted with gender specific roles and
characteristics. The concept of gender reinforces and reproduces the existing structure of
domination (Röser&Wischermann, 2008).
Gender has been firstly discussed in its relation to ICTs in the early 1990s. It focused on
women as objects of information and dealt with it on the following three levels. The first level
described the equitable access of women and woman’s organizations to the means of public
expression. The second level dealt with women’s access to professional careers and decisionmaking positions that had traditionally been male preserves. The third level focused on the
portrayals of women reinforcing or changing stereotypes. Though in the last few years, there has
been a reorientation towards women as controllers of information and enabling more women to
participate and spread their own messages through the new ICTs (Gurumurthy, 2004).

IV.

Network Politics and the Role of ICTs in Women Empowerment

New media technologies such as blogs, websites, facebook, twitter a.o. play an important role in
shaping the political debate and democratic procedures both online and offline (Van Dijk, 2012).
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The newness of new media (Van Dijk, 2012), i.e. interactivity, digitalization, computing,
convergence and storing, permit users to generate, distribute, share and consume content
simultaneously regardless of time and space. Moreover, citizens may express their concerns and
exchange opinions about the ongoing political debates. Online communities could function as a
gathering space of likeminded people and organizations (Miller, 2011). However, some online
political debates, such as gender equality, are more popular than others because they are discussed
extensively in media and also form part of election campaigns.
Women empowerment refers to the importance of increasing women’s power and control
over their decisions and issues that influence their lives, such as participation in politics. Having
access to internet and also the necessary digital skills could be two of the major components of
women empowerment in the modern society since they participate in online debates on gender
equality. In general, each individual has the need to belong to a group of people with whom s/he
shares common concerns (Miller, 2011). As a consequence, some individuals who advocate for
specific issues, such as gender equality, may feel more confident to share their views about
women’s issues within a community of likeminded people. The online space may empower those
individuals to produce information and advocate about gender issues because they feel that there
are other people with whom they share similar concerns (Miller, 2011).
ICTs may endorse the active participation of women in politics for the following reasons.
Firstly, ICTs will enable women to access important information about social and political topics
that directly affect their professional, private and social life. Secondly, a higher level of
information and knowledge may urge women to participate actively in politics by producing and
consuming content within the online environment. Thirdly, the ICTs may give a strong voice to
women, to advocate about gender issues and political representation of women in decisionmaking bodies. Moreover, ICTs can be a very important tool for women who are limited
represented in the political discourse, both in developed and developing countries. Several
successful initiatives showed that women can be empowered socially and politically thorough
ICTs (Ramilo et al., 2005:6f ;Heyzer, 2010: 1f).

Methodology
The research methodology was based on (n)ethnography and interviews. As it was mentioned
before, (n)ethnography is a research tool which permits us to observe and draw conclusions
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about the human behavior in the online environment (Miller &Horst, 2012). The research
focused on observing and participating actively in the open facebook page4 of the EWL. The
EWL is a network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) dealing with gender equality,
women right and combat of women’s violence around Europe. We have been observing the
activity of the EWL facebook page for one month (17 February- 14 March 2014). The
(n)ethnographic analysis has been complemented with three synchronous facebook-chat
interviews with three female community members. Moreover, it has been conducted an
asynchronous email interview with the communication officer of the EWL, Elvira Buijink.
The content of the facebook page is updated at a daily basis. The posts of the last month
are focused mainly on women representation in decision-making bodies, such as national
parliaments and European Parliament, because the European elections will be held in May 2014.
The posts reflected that one of the goals of the EWL is to empower women to participate actively
in the political life and advocate for women’s rights. In general, the discussion tone within the
community could be characterized as civilized, i.e. it has not been observed an exchange of
offensive comments among individuals with different opinions. Another observation is that the
participants are a bit passive since they do only “LIKE” on the community’s post. Moreover,
they rarely comment and share posts.
One of our research goals was to identify the profile of people who participate in this
community, their motivation and how they got involved with women issues. An interviewee with
migrant background said that she started being engaged on gender equality issues in 2011 after
participating in a workshop organized by Federation of Young European Greens. After this
workshop she began following the EWL on the social networking platforms. Moreover, the
interviewee asserted that she became more interested in the work of the EWL and contributed to
media campaign design addressed to women with migrant background.
The major question of our study was the role of new media technologies in empowering
women to participate in the political life and advocate about topics that directly concern them.
The new media technologies accelerate the communication between individuals and give
opportunities to groups with limited free time, such as women to be involved in political debates
(Miller, 2011). In specific, one of interviewee from Cyprus told us that “new media platforms

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/European-Womens-Lobby/169340673246?fref=ts
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can spark any debate, as long as it is an issue that citizens are concerned with”. The interviewee
added that the increased diffusion of online debates about women representation in decisionmaking institutions in politics attracted the interest of traditional media as well. The increased
production of news media on women representation in political institutions urged the President
of the Republic of Cyprus to have a meeting with one of the most important women initiatives of
the country and discuss about the inclusion of women in policy-making. Nevertheless, another
interviewee claimed that online debates do not have a direct influence on adopted policies and
resolutions since decision-making process has a strong institutional structure.
The law of network externality (Van Dijk, 2012) implies that if a specific social
networking platform is popular then the amount of individuals who would like to join this
platform will increase. As a consequence, most of the individuals choose to debate about gender
issues through facebook because it is among the most popular social networking platforms.
However, one of the interviewee claimed that she prefers to debate about gender issues on twitter
because it is open and it is not obligatory to have a twitter account to observe the trends. She also
claimed that the information on twitter is brief and spreads more quickly. The latter lead to the
conclusion that some organizations intent to be present in several social networking platforms so
that to spread their news media products effectively.
One of the main observations is that the followers of the EWL facebook page are mainly
women and organizations related to gender equality and politics. Women follow the specific
facebook page because they seek for information about topics that directly concern them. The
information could be the views of different politicians on gender issues and adopted policies and
resolution. Moreover, the intercultural aspect of this facebook page may urge the women who are
part of this online community to express and develop many parts of their identity (Miller, 2011).
However, it has been observed that there are also some men who “LIKE” the specific facebook
page, so, we indented to examine the motivation of a male individual to “LIKE” and share
content from a facebook page dedicated to women issues. One of the interviewee stated that the
men who participate in the EWL facebook page are aware of social inequalities, so, they would
like to show their solidarity to women. In addition those men aim to sensitize other men about
the issue of gender inequality. Nonetheless, some of the men who follow the facebook page of
the EWL are engaged in political institutions as policy-makers and media institutions as
journalists or communication professionals. However, we cannot draw any conclusion since we
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did not manage to interview any male individual who follows the facebook page of the EWL.
Buijink emphasizes that the online communication strategy of the EWL is oriented
towards the generation and dissemination of online news media content through the official
online channels of the organization, i.e. website, facebook, twitter, flickr, a weekly thematic emagazine etc. EWL is actively present in different networking platforms since each platform
gratifies different needs (Deuze, 2012) so the communication tone in each platform is different.
One of the goals of the EWL is to target different kinds of audiences, i.e. ordinary citizens,
member organizations, journalists, media experts, academics and decision-makers, at an
international level based on the needs of the different kinds of audiences. In addition, the
communication strategy of the EWL has two angles. The first angle highlights how the EWL
debates on behalf of the member-organizations of the network advocating about gender issues,
innovation and policy-adaption taking into consideration the political and media discourse on
gender issues. The second angle illustrates the key role of democratic and transparent procedures
in decision-making and communication procedures because transparency and auditing are two
elements that give legitimacy to an organization. In general, organizations intent to acquire
legitimacy about the way they perform by implementing the appropriate communication strategy
and also by producing news (Pallas; Jonsson; Strannegård, 2014).
Buijink said that among the social groups that the EWL intends to attract and raise
awareness on gender issues are the young people. A good way to sensitise youth about gender
issues is through the social networking platforms mainly because ICTs have been embedded in
young people’s life since their childhood (Van Dijk, 2012). In addition, young people do not
have a strong interest on politics and democratic procedures (Macitosh; Robsona et al., 2003)
and do not follow political debates. As a result, social networking platforms could function as a
medium to stimulate the interest of young people about politics due to their exposure on new
media platforms.

Conclusions
The strong correlation between media and society lead to the evolution of media as a social
institution so political institutions are urged to incorporate media logic in their routine (Hjarvard,
2013). Specifically, the concept of mediatization of politics illustrates the dependence of political
institutions on media. The interaction within and between political organizations are highly
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mediated (Hjarvard, 2013).
Media have always been an institution with political power due to their capability to
produce and distribute information about politics (Hjarvard, 2013). Over the last decades, the
emergence of new media technologies lead to an increased production, consumption and sharing
of information between the users about the political life. In consequence, it could be inferred that
new media have a strong impact on the political life (Van Dijk, 2012). Hjarvard (2013) suggests
that new media are more independent from political institutions in comparison to traditional
media. In the era of information society having gate keepers, people who control what kind of
information is important to be broadcasted and what is not, is not feasible due to the information
abundance.
The empirical results of our study showed that social networking platforms may empower
women to debate about women rights and politics. New media technologies may give a voice to
women, to advocate, raise awareness about gender issues, to network and communicate with
decision-making bodies. Additionally, women who participate in gender equality online
communities tend to be more determined to debate for women rights. Being part of a community
which advocates for women rights empowers women to struggle for their rights because they feel
that they are part of a community (Miller, 2011). ICTs may also assist the networking and
communication between organizations and institutions (Castells, 2013) that share common
values and advocate for similar causes, i.e. gender equality and women rights. Moreover, both
individuals and organizations may communicate with decision-making and media institutions,
such as European Parliament, European Commission, television, press and online media, about
gender equality policies. However, as it was mentioned before, there is not a direct impact on
adopted policies and resolutions.
The communication strategy of organizations is focused on generating news media
products for different kinds of audiences (Carroll&Deephouse, 2014). Organizations build their
reputation by being present in several social networking platforms and also adapt to the cultural
norms of media. The empirical results demonstrated that an organization which is oriented
towards gender issues tend to produce continuously different sorts of news media products
within a certain time frame. The involved stakeholders in the production of news media should
take into consideration the time constraint so that the broadcasted topic continues to be important
(Carroll&Deephouse, 2014). As it has previously been mentioned, different online platforms, i.e.
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websites, facebook, twitter, etc, serve different purposes.
From the theoretical point of view, this research would have been furthered improved if it
analysed the aspects of online identity and network individualism. The increased exposure of
individuals on different cultural concepts and combined with the direct interaction with
individuals from many parts of the world leads to a continuous identity development (Miller,
2011). In specific, mass communication and interpersonal communication are blurred (Walter et
al., 2011). On the one hand, men and women who follow online communities related to gender
issues negotiate different part of their identity such as gender, political and cultural identity. On
the other hand, there is a communication between individuals and organizations and also a strong
networking activity among different organizations. From the methodological point of view, the
data collection procedure could be enriched by conducting interviews with men as well but it
was not feasible due to time constraints. Moreover, we had tried to contact some men but they
did not respond.
The role of new media in politics is very important. New media platforms may spark the
political debate and engage social groups who have limited representation in politics. In
consequence, new media could formulate an essential part of the political discourse because of
the increased information circulation among users regardless of time and space (Miller, 2011). As
a consequence, organizations have incorporated the logic of new media in their work over the
last two decades (Van Dijk, 2012). As a general conclusion it could be highlighted that ICTs
could function as a tool for women empowerment and active political participation of women in
the decision-making process. Women may advocate and debate about topics that directly concern
them, i.e. gender equality and political representation in decision-making process. Additionally,
women may produce and circulate information within new media platforms. As it has been
mentioned before, the increased diffusion of a certain kind of information in the new media
platforms may stimulate the interest of traditional media and political institutions. Nevertheless,
the efficient use of ICTs and the internet access do not guarantee the active participation of
women in the political debate since each individual use the social networking platforms for
different reasons (Deuze, 2012).

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