The case of the 2010 municipal elections in Calgary, Canada, is used here to explore the discursive construction of social media in relation to political engagement. This article examines the way in which 59 undergraduate students at the University of Calgary discuss political engagement through Facebook and Twitter. Participants enthusiastically constructed a vision of ‘engagement’ fostered by social media’s alleged intrinsic features. Social media, it was argued, create a feeling of community, provide access to information as well as the ability to share it, and open up new means of building personal connections between politicians and citizens. In this articulation, social media appeared as both the tool that produced engagement and the space where this engagement unfolded. The focus of the article is on questioning the implications of this discursive construction by asking what political possibilities are opened up or closed down in this articulation? The construction of social media as the solution to the problems of democracy remains highly problematic, yet also indicative of a deep preoccupation with the conditions of modern life, and particularly the desire to find solutions to the increased complexity of the social systems.

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Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)

Dumitrica, D. (2016). Imagining engagement: youth, social media and electoral processes. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 22(1), 35–53. doi:10.1177/1354856514553899