Computer - Mediated Communication as Political Communication : Investigating the Agenda - Setting Function

Abstract

The agenda-setting function in new forms of political communication using computermediated communication (CMC) is explored. Issue networks for select online debates are examined, including North Korea’s nuclear weapons, the Zero Access policy for media coverage of the removal of dead bodies following Hurricane Katrina, proposals for a hydrogen powered vehicle, cyberstalking, and Intelligent Design, during the period June, 2005 to September, 2005. This study predicted that media agendas or issue frames with higher accessibility on the web are more likely to influence the public agendas of bloggers. In the networked communication space formed by CMC, issues placed in denser web spheres and larger web spheres, are likely to achieve a higher perceived prominence among bloggers. Several procedures were adopted to test the hypotheses and to explore the technical feasibility of combining hyperlink analysis and quantitative content analysis. To systematize data collection in the web sphere, a series of automated procedures were employed, including the use of the Google Search engine, as well as IssueCrawler, SocSciBot (Co-link analysis), and Pajek to identify and map patterns of links among web sites. BlogPulse and Webivore were used to collect textual data from websites and weblogs. VBPro was used to identify themes in issue agendas in the relevant web spheres and blogospheres. A simple correlation between the ranked order of media agendas and public agendas was employed for this study. Empirical findings did not fully support the hypotheses claiming positive correlations between the structural properties, which are density and size for this study, of the web spheres carrying messages and the perceived prominence of issues among bloggers. However, some limited empirical evidence suggests the existence of an agenda-setting function on the web. Relatively strong correlations are reported between the ranking of the issue frames or agendas in the web spheres and the ranking of the agendas in the blogospheres.

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Lee2006ComputerM, title={Computer - Mediated Communication as Political Communication : Investigating the Agenda - Setting Function}, author={J. Lee and Stephen D. McDowell and Gary Burnett and John K. Mayo and Danielle Wiese}, year={2006} }