SISP2024
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SISP Conference 2024

SISP2024 Sections and Panels

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Section 4 - Political Communication

Managers: Fabio Bordignon, Rossana Sampugnaro

Read Section abstract
According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, a plurality of EU citizens (38%), when asked to identify the primary threats to democracy, cite “false and/or misleading information in general circulating online and offline”. 22% mention “propaganda and false/misleading information from a non-democratic foreign source”. Approximately half of EU citizens (51%) identify “voters having access to accurate information to make an informed choice” as one of the most crucial aspects of free and fair elections. In the great election year of 2024 – involving the EU, the US, Russia, and India among the others – the challenges impacting political systems and the resilience of democracy are increasingly intertwined with the realms of political communication, the role of the media, and technological development. In the World Economic Forum Global Risks Perception Survey 2023-2024, which drew on the insights of about 1500 experts, misinformation and disinformation emerge as the most severe global risk expected to escalate over the next two years, fueling social and political polarisation. Meanwhile, the rapid evolution of technology and the spread of AI are broadening the frontiers of the mediatization and digitization of politics. The use of big data, algorithms and microtargeting provide new tools for the running of election campaigns, raising numerous questions about the scope for manipulation and the integrity of the electoral process. In a broader sense, these trends fuel reflection on the consequences of the digital revolution on the political sphere and political representation.
This section invites panels that deal with the topic of political communication in its different domains, relying on a plurality of theoretical approaches and empirical methods.
We welcome contributions that provide reflections in the more traditional fields of research, as well as contributions that take into account the new phenomena of fragmentation, decentralization, and dis/re-intermediation of political communication at the local, national, and international levels.
Proposed panels are expected to fall within the following research areas:

- public and institutional communication;
- electoral communication and campaign management;
- data-driven campaigning and microtargeting;
- the media and political participation;
- digital media and new forms of political action;
- the effects of the media on citizens and public opinion;
- the link between political systems and the media;
- the relationship between politics and journalism;
- disintermediation and re-intermediation;
- the globalization of political communication;
- political communication and digital technologies in international relations and conflicts;
- international migration and its narrative(s);
- political communication and scientific communication (in the context of health crises);
- the role of platforms and social networks;
- methods and techniques of data collection and processing in communication studies;
- rhetoric and narratives of politics;
- the personalization of politics and political leadership;
- digital parties;
- popularization of politics and celebrity politics;
- mis-information, disinformation and fake news;
- political incivility and hate speech;
- populist communication and media logic(s);
- political polarization and the media;
- digital media governance;
- the opportunities and challenges posed by the evolution of artificial intelligence;
- the challenges of the 'platform society';
- digital constitutionalism;
- political communication and the transformation of democracy (and representation).

The section is also open to consider proposals on additional topics related to the field of political communication.

Panels may include contributions either with a theoretical perspective or empirical analysis. Methodologically, both qualitative and quantitative research approaches as well as contributions based on mixed-methods research designs are welcomed. In addition, panel proposals that present a comparative perspective are particularly encouraged. Panels and papers may be in Italian or (fully or partly) in English.
 

Panel 4.1 ELECTION CAMPAIGNS BETWEEN FORMS AND PLATFORMS OF POLITICAL INCIVILITY


We have recently witnessed an increase in the use of incivility and hostility by candidates and political parties (Klinger et al. 2022; Reiter & Matthes 2022), especially during election campaigns, where attacks on opponents in the form of defamation, discredit, mockery, and the like have intensified (Brooks & Geer, 2007; Gross & Johnson, 2016). Additionally, both traditional media and online platforms give wide visibility to expressions of incivility to compete in the attention economy, attract wider audiences, and activate user engagement behaviours.
Even though numerous and diverse expressions of political incivility have previously been reported, we believe that we are witnessing a fundamental shift: incivility has evolved into a strategic asset that diverse public actors now harness to accomplish distinct objectives (Bentivegna & Rega, 2024). These actors are not limited to political representatives, but include journalists, citizens, social movements, and protest groups. In short, incivility has become a resource to be leveraged, to pursue goals which may be political (to prioritise an issue or introduce a new actor into the political landscape), media-related (to increase visibility or audience share), or relational (to enhance visibility and centrality within an integrated communication ecosystem that now encompasses both legacy and social media).
As a result of this shift, academics, politicians, and citizens are equally concerned about the harmful consequences of political incivility on democracy, such as the increase in cynicism, political disaffection, and citizen alienation from political life (Mutz & Reeves, 2005; Otto et al., 2020). Moreover, research has also shown the relationship between political incivility and the increasing affective polarization of citizens (Borah, 2014; Humprecht et al., 2020).
Against this background, the panel aims to encourage a moment of discussion by scholars on the different forms of political incivility and the various platforms through which they can spread, analysing issues such as:
- delegitimization of the political opponent and other forms of political incivility used during the 2024 European election campaign;
- citizens' perception of incivility during the 2014 EU election campaign;
- the use of forms of misinformation, disinformation, and/or malinformation by campaign actors;
- the use of hate speech and other forms of discrimination against minorities by campaign actors;
- the role of different platforms (TikTok, Instagram, X, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) in contributing to the spread of incivility.

Chairs: Sara Bentivegna, Rossella Rega

Discussants: Giovanni Diamanti

Dimensioni e predittori dell’inciviltà politica: considerazioni a partire dalla revisione sistematica della letteratura
Camilla Folena, Laura Caroleo
Abstract
L’inciviltà politica ha assunto un ruolo sempre più centrale nel dibattito pubblico, divenendo oggetto di crescente interesse accademico (Bentivegna & Rega 2024) Sebbene alcune tendenze e chiavi di lettura attorno al tema si stiano consolidando, il dibattito è ancora caratterizzato da un’eccessiva frammentarietà. Ciò, in particolare, per quanto riguarda le dimensioni concettuali e la loro operativizzazione empirica, così come le variabili chiave considerate utili per studiare la percezione dell’inciviltà. Il presente paper utilizza una revisione sistematica della letteratura (Grant & Booth, 2009) al fine di far emergere le lacune e i problemi teorici più urgenti da affrontare riguardo al modo in cui l’inciviltà politica viene riconosciuta da cittadini e politici. Per identificare gli studi rilevanti è stato adottato un protocollo strutturato in più fasi. Si è partiti dall’utilizzo delle stringhe di ricerca "uncivil AND politic*" e "incivility AND politic*" sulle banche dati bibliografiche accademiche Web of Science e Scopus. Sono stati rimossi i duplicati, gli studi in lingue diverse dall'inglese, quelli afferenti a contesti non politici (ad esempio, dell’inciviltà sul posto di lavoro), e ricerche che non fornivano sufficienti dettagli metodologici. Si sono così ottenuti 282 studi unici, pubblicati tra il 2010 e il 2024. Il dataset è stato analizzato codificando gli aspetti dell’inciviltà indagati, i media coinvolti, i contesti nazionali, i temi contigui, i metodi di ricerca utilizzati e le prospettive interpretative adottate. L'analisi ha rilevato un netto aumento degli studi sull'inciviltà politica a partire dal 2017, in concomitanza con eventi come il referendum sulla Brexit e le elezioni presidenziali americane del 2016. L'analisi mostra un'evoluzione sia quantitativa che qualitativa del campo di studi, con un aumento delle domande di ricerca e l’emersione di nuove prospettive di interpretazione. Dal punto di vista dei media analizzati, si registra un prevedibile passaggio dall’inciviltà indagata sui media tradizionali (stampa cartacea, televisione e radio) all’inciviltà sui social media: tra il 2011 e il 2015 Facebook risulta l’unico social network oggetto di studio; mentre dal 2016 Twitter diventa la piattaforma presa più spesso in esame. Sotto il profilo degli attori coinvolti, l’attenzione sembra passare da giornalisti e partiti ai leader e rappresentanti politici e, soprattutto, ai cittadini come utenti dei social media. A ciò si combina una sovrarappresentazione di determinate situazioni comunicative online - soprattutto riguardante le dinamiche di commenting dei contenuti di news - rispetto alla pluralità crescente degli spazi digitali. Quasi la metà degli studi (47%) ha come oggetto il contesto statunitense, mentre in Europa il paese più studiato è la Germania (8% del totale). Risulta ancora limitata l’ottica comparativa: meno del 5% delle ricerche prende in considerazione due o più nazioni. Circa il 40% degli articoli comprende qualche forma di esperimento nel disegno della ricerca. Segue l’analisi del contenuto tra le metodologie più utilizzate (32%). Interessante notare la spiccata marginalità di metodologie qualitative e delle analisi svolte in contesti non artificiali che prendono in considerazione gli ambienti quotidiani in cui gli utenti danno significato all’inciviltà. Dalla review sono emersi sei aspetti dell’inciviltà che tendono ad essere studiati: gli effetti dell’inciviltà (analizzata nel 36% dei paper), la frequenza con cui si presenta (29%), la percezione dell’inciviltà (17%), i diversi tipi e forme in cui si presenta (6%), i fattori che la motivano (5%) e l’inciviltà come variabile interveniente (6%). I contributi sugli effetti e sulle frequenze hanno conquistato crescente centralità nella letteratura a partire dal 2010, privilegiando negli ultimi anni prospettive più ampie - di pari passo con un incremento degli studi di matrice psicologia - inerenti la “polarizzazione affettiva”, le “emozioni ostili” e “negative”. La revisione sistematica della letteratura si è quindi focalizzata sugli studi sulla percezione dell’inciviltà, con il fine di raccogliere definizioni, dimensioni, indicatori empirici e potenziali predittori della percezione dell’inciviltà. I predittori presi in considerazione fanno riferimento a: attributi personali (es. età, genere, etnia), politici (es. efficacia politica, fiducia nelle istituzioni, orientamento politico) e sociali (es. educazione, occupazione); al consumo mediale (es. consumo di notizie, utilizzo dei social media), gli attributi degli spazi mediali (es. presenza di moderazione, anonimato degli utenti, partigianeria degli spazi) e il sistema politico/culturale largamente inteso (es. sistemi elettorali, mediali). La revisione sistematica conferma la natura multidimensionale del concetto, ma anche una tendenza ancora scarsa alla possibilità di replicare i protocolli di ricerca e l’operativizzazione del concetto in contesti differenti, seppure vi siano alcune parziali eccezioni di studiosi che hanno replicato lo studio a distanza di alcuni anni (Stryker et al. 2016; Stryker et al. 2022, Stryker et al. 2024).
La multidimensionalità del concetto di inciviltà politica alla prova della ricerca empirica: il caso delle Elezioni Europee del 2024
Sara Bentivegna
Abstract
La multidimensionalità del concetto di inciviltà politica alla prova della ricerca empirica: il caso delle Elezioni Europee del 2024 Pur se da tempo al centro dell’attenzione degli studiosi, il concetto di inciviltà politica continua a essere un “concetto scivoloso”. Questa sua natura deriva dal fatto che l’inciviltà è, come è noto, “nell’occhio di chi guarda” e, quindi, varia al mutare dell’attore, del luogo e del contesto. Ovviamente, ciò non vuol dire che non vi siano definizioni del concetto sulle quali gli studiosi concordano. Significa, molto più semplicemente, che è necessario tenere presente che le definizioni fornite dagli studiosi, per esempio, possono non coincidere con quelle fornite dai cittadini. A partire da tale riflessione, il gruppo di ricerca “Attributions, Perceptions, and Practices of Political Incivility in Europe” (progetto PRIN 2022) ha costruito un disegno di ricerca nel quale sono state messe a confronto le definizioni elaborate dagli studiosi e quelle fornite da un campione rappresentativo della popolazione italiana, tramite una survey condotta dall’istituto IPSOS. Il concetto di inciviltà politica è stato definito come “una mancanza di rispetto per le regole che governano le relazioni interpersonali e il funzionamento delle istituzioni democratiche” (Bentivegna & Rega, 2022) ed è stato articolato in tre dimensioni: Disrespect for others Disrespect for democratic values Disrespect for democratic institutions Per ciascuna dimensione sono stati individuati quattro indicatori, utilizzati – mediante il supporto di esempi tratti dai social media o da programmi televisivi – per registrare la percezione dei cittadini e, in parallelo, la prossimità/distanza con le percezioni frutto delle analisi degli studiosi. Oltre a questo confronto, gli intervistati sono stati invitati a fornire una loro definizione di “inciviltà politica” e a dichiarare la loro vicinanza rispetto alle definizioni più frequenti presenti nel dibattito pubblico. Questa triangolazione tra valutazione di alcuni episodi di inciviltà, offerta di una propria definizione e condivisione con le definizioni più diffuse ci ha messo nella condizione di confermare la multidimensionalità del concetto nonché la necessità di registrare, dimensione per dimensione, la percezione degli individui, frutto di numerose variabili di ordine socio-culturale, mediale e politico.
L’inciviltà ai margini: l’impatto delle piattaforme fringe sul dibattito pubblico.
Valeria Donato, Giovanni Boccia Artieri, Stefano Brilli, Elisabetta Zurovac
Abstract
Il panorama contemporaneo della comunicazione digitale è caratterizzato da un complesso intreccio di spazi pubblici, semi-pubblici e privati (Boccia Artieri, Brilli, Zurovac 2021). Questi spazi differiscono per visibilità, regolamentazione e partecipazione, ma sono interconnessi attraverso dinamiche di migrazione reciproca tra ambienti “ai margini” e realtà mediali mainstream. Comprendere queste dinamiche è essenziale per indagare l’ipotesi di deterioramento del dibattito pubblico a causa di un aumento della tossicità dalla dimensione discorsiva. Questo processo sembra rafforzato dalla partecipazione dei cittadini a piattaforme online alternative o “fringe” (de Winkel, 2023). In particolare, Schulze e colleghi (2022) hanno analizzato come questi spazi – allo stesso tempo tecnici, culturali e sociali - siano collegati a ecosistemi di disinformazione, alla diffusione di narrazioni e ideologie cospirazioniste, e alla normalizzazione del pensiero populista ed estremista. Gli autori sottolineano l'esistenza di una relazione di co-dipendenza e interdipendenza tra l'aumento di spazi online alternativi e la crescita di forme discorsive associate all'estrema destra. Benché questi ambienti online marginali possano essere interpretati come laboratori per lo sviluppo di punti di vista problematici capaci di penetrare nel mainstream, al contempo possono dare voce a comunità emarginate e svantaggiate, tanto da proporsi anche come nuove risorse per il dibattito pubblico contemporaneo. Il presente lavoro illustra i presupposti teorici e le proposte metodologiche del progetto di ricerca "Countering Online Radicalization and Incivility in Italy: from Fringe to Mainstream" (CORIT), finanziato dal Programma Next Generation EU. Il progetto si focalizza sull’analisi di narrazioni, gruppi e azioni marginali strutturate con l'intento di "intossicare" il sistema dei media ibrido italiano. CORIT si propone di delineare le basi concettuali, empiriche ed etiche nello studio della Telegramsphere italiana, oltre a valutare la sua possibile influenza e interdipendenza con le piattaforme di discussione mainstream. Telegram, difatti, si è posizionato, sin dalla sua creazione, come uno degli spazi privilegiati per tutti gli utenti in cerca di privacy, libertà discorsiva e sicurezza, caratteristiche capaci di attrarre tanto coloro che immaginano una rete libera quanto gli utenti costretti a utilizzare tale spazio come l'unico mezzo sicuro di coordinamento (Urman e Katz 2022). Telegram, d’altro canto, appare essere un ambiente ideale per monitorare informazioni e contesti in cui le narrazioni problematiche e complottistiche tendono a prosperare (Schulze et al. 2022, Herasimenka et al. 2022). In particolare, i canali Telegram sono rapidamente diventati popolari per la trasmissione di notizie alternative (Wijermars 2021), il reclutamento di gruppi estremisti (Urman & Katz 2022), il coordinamento di gruppi complottisti di estrema destra (Walther e McCoy 2021) nonché la diffusione di disinformazione (Herasimenka et al. 2022). Tuttavia, ciò che rimane poco chiaro e non sufficientemente esplorato è la relazione tra tali spazi e culture marginali su Telegram e gli spazi web più visibili e popolari, così come la loro risonanza sui media tradizionali. In altre parole, diviene cruciale comprendere come pratiche e linguaggi sviluppati in piattaforme marginali possano estendersi oltre ad esse, navigando tra dinamiche a monte e a valle (Jost et al. 20223). Il lavoro che proponiamo, dunque, si basa su una scoping review e una valutazione critica delle risorse accademiche raccolte attraverso Scopus, Google Scholar e Web of Science sui termini chiave del progetto “fringe platform/social media/online spaces” e “deplatforming”. Espandendo, inoltre, tale rassegna la presentazione si propone due obiettivi principali. In primis, esplorare come la letteratura accademica costruisca il concetto di piattaforme, pratiche e spazi online “fringe”, al fine di analizzare criticamente come l'imperativo di caratterizzare comportamenti potenzialmente pericolosi debba confrontarsi con il rischio di contribuire all'emarginazione di tali gruppi. In secondo luogo, approfondire, in chiave concettuale e metodologica, che tipo di pratiche e categorie di analisi possano emergere in questo peculiar campo di studio, ancora oggi accademicamente considerate come “below the radar” (Boccia Artieri et al. 2021). Studiare, dunque, l’ecosistema mediale nella sua complessità e completezza può consentire di valutare le evoluzioni della piattaformizzazione della politica e dell’agenda pubblica nonché le modalità con cui queste influiscono sulla comunicazione politica, culturale e sociale.
L’inciviltà politica nell’interpretazione dei giornalisti: quali diversità tra partisan media e testate generaliste?
Rossella Rega
Abstract
Muovendo dall’assunto che l’inciviltà è “nell’occhio di chi guarda” (Herbst, 2010), questo studio pone l’attenzione su uno dei principali attori della scena pubblica, i giornalisti. Tradizionalmente associati alla figura dei gatekeepers, essi svolgono un ruolo determinante nella selezione dei contenuti informativi da portare all’attenzione dei cittadini e, proprio in funzione di questo loto ruolo, possono contribuire all’eventuale messa in circolazione di contenuti politici incivili. Contenuti considerati tali perché violano le norme sociali e culturali che governano le interazioni personali e che presiedono al funzionamento dei sistemi democratici (Bentivegna, Rega, 2022). Partendo da questa premessa, tra gli obiettivi della ricerca vi è quello di indagare un aspetto oggi poco conosciuto, ovvero il livello di consapevolezza, conoscenza e riflessività da parte dei giornalisti in merito al fenomeno dell’inciviltà politica, alle sue dimensioni e proporzioni e anche alle sue potenziali ricadute. In tal senso la ricerca analizza le diverse interpretazioni emerse tra i giornalisti di testate partisan e quelli di testate generaliste in merito ad alcuni principali aspetti più significativi: la definizione di inciviltà politica e le motivazioni che sono alla base del suo aumento – ponendo particolare attenzione al ruolo svolto dai diversi attori della scena pubblica (giornalisti stessi, politici, ma anche cittadini) – e, infine, le difformità emerse in relazione sia alla valutazione della notiziabilità dell’inciviltà politica sia alle conseguenze che essa ha sulla vita democratica. Mediante interviste semi-strutturate a 30 giornalisti di differenti testate informative italiane (tv, digital only, legacy media, etc.), questo studio evidenzia una comprensione piuttosto articolata del concetto di discorso incivile (talvolta ricondotto all’uso di menzogne e forme di mistificazione della realtà, altre volte alla delegittimazione dell’avversario o alla mancanza di rispetto per gli elettori e/o per le istituzioni) e, soprattutto, interpretazioni spesso distinte tra giornalisti di testate partigiane e non. La maggior parte degli intervistati sembrano consapevoli del fatto che i politici utilizzino dichiarazioni ad effetto, spesso oltraggiose, talvolta persino sessiste e/o razziste, per attirare l’attenzione della stampa. Per quanto riguarda le ragioni che li spingono a darne notizia, pur emergendo alcune differenze, sembra esserci un accordo trasversale sul valore ‘remunerativo’ dell’inciviltà (che accresce l’engagement sui social network e ha una maggiore presa sul pubblico) e sulla responsabilità diretta dei giornalisti e della stampa nel contribuire a una rappresentazione rissosa della politica e nell’enfatizzare/esagerare gli attacchi tra politici e l’inciviltà. Da parte dei giornalisti di testate generaliste di centro e di sinistra, tuttavia, la scelta di coprire le dichiarazioni spesso oltraggiose di soggetti politici risponde anche all’esigenza di informare i cittadini sulle violazioni delle norme da parte dei rappresentanti politici, quasi a svolgere un ruolo di watchdog della classe politica. Altrettanto interessanti sono le valutazioni emerse circa il valore informativo di contenuti volti a dileggiare o screditare chi la pensa differentemente attraverso titoli fortemente provocatori (“La Rompiballe va dal Papa” in relazione a Greta Thunberg, il “Mercante di Uteri” riferito a Justin Trudeau o il “Campo Laido” in riferimento al “Campo largo” della sinistra). Se per gli intervistati di testate generaliste questi articoli non hanno alcuna funzione informativa, tra quelli di testate partisan c’è anche chi ritiene che l’informazione non sia l’obiettivo primario della loro professione e che i giornali servano a stimolare il dibattito e la discussione nell’opinione pubblica, delineandosi come “strumenti di battaglia politica”. Nell’insieme sembra emergere con forza da parte della maggioranza degli intervistati un senso di rammarico per questa deriva, che lede l’autorevolezza della professione e che, progressivamente, porta i giornalisti a una perdita della propria indipendenza e autonomia sotto pressioni di diverso tipo, politiche, editoriali ed economiche. Da segnalare, infine, la riflessione che emerge a proposito delle conseguenze dell’impoverimento del dibattito pubblico: a causa dell’aumento di forme di comunicazione riconducibili al discorso incivile, i giornalisti italiani sembrano trasversalmente preoccupati per la crescita della sfiducia nei confronti dei media informativi, nonché per l’affermarsi di forze politiche sempre più estremiste e populiste.
 

Panel 4.2 The Climate Change Challenge: Exploring Social, Political, and Media Dynamics


Climate change has emerged as a critical global challenge, with increased recognition of
environmental concerns in recent years. This issue presents a fertile ground to study the future of
politics, particularly as it transcends traditional divides between materialism and post-materialism.
The mobilizations led by the Fridays for Future movement and Generation Z, alongside farmers'
protests against the Green Deal, contributed to heightening the attention on the issue. Additionally,
while the occurrence of extreme weather events and disasters has further increased awareness of the
topic, on the other hand, the aftermath of such events is often characterized by a surge in
misinformation These developments showed how climate change is not merely a technical or
economic challenge but a global arena for sharp political conflicts over the distribution of gains and
losses, coupled with profound ethical considerations on values, equity and global justice.
In the Italian context, climate change issues have shifted from marginal relevance to renowned
attention at both the political forefront and within the public debate, as well as becoming a focal
point of socio-political research in recent times. Scholars of Italian politics have started to explore
the intricate interplay between politics, media, and public opinion concerning climate change and its
wide-ranging implications. Within this framework, how are social and political scientists dealing
with the politics of climate change and the green transition?
What do we know about the politicization of the discourse on climate change? Or about citizens’
opinions and attitudes on policies to mitigate climate change? How does the public opinion perceive
climate risk? How do extreme weather events and natural disasters affect society and politics? Has
the elite and mass polarization on this issue increased? How media coverage of the climate change
issue changed over time? What do we know about the new environmental social movements and
activists’ attitudes? Are policy proposals for a green transition bolstering old divides or fuelling new
conflicts? How are policymaking and communication evolving on this issue?
We invite contributions addressing these questions from an interdisciplinary point of view, with a
particular focus on:
? parties’, candidates’ and representatives’ agenda on climate change and the green transition;
? environmental social movements: activists’ attitudes and repertoires of action;
? the relationship between parties and environmental movements;
? citizens’ opinions on climate change and the green transition and their determinants;

? The spread of fake news, misinformation, or conspiracy theories;
? media coverage and parties’ communication strategies;
? public policies on environmental issues and their communication.

Chairs: Daria Loreti, Giacomo Salvarani, Francesco Visconti

Discussants: Francesco Visconti

Climate Change and Extreme Events in the Media: Frames and causes in the TV Coverage of the 2023 Emilia-Romagna Flood
Guido Legnante, Cecilia Biancalana, Samantha Conte, Riccardo Ladini
Abstract
Climate change is one of the most urgent issues facing contemporary societies. Over the last quarter century, awareness about the issue has grown globally due to scientific discoveries, extreme climate events, media coverage, and political and environmental actions. Italian coverage of climate change is characterized by limited discussion of its causes (Pasquarè & Oppizzi, 2012), spectacularization and dramatization (Candela, 2015), lack of presence of experts and scientists (Inglisa, 2008). The issue often remains a lower priority in the Italian mediascape compared to other issues (Biancalana & Ladini 2022) and this lack of urgency stems partly from the nature of climate change itself, which manifests through long-term, global variations in atmospheric conditions, making it challenging for individuals to perceive and directly experience its impacts. The complex nature of the issue contributes to this perception gap (Leiserowitz, 2007). Climate change has significantly impacted political landscapes, influencing party competition and mobilization strategies. It operates as a positional issue, uniquely characterized by the altruistic imperative together with the restructuring of the economy (Farstad 2018; Schworer, 2024). The politicization of climate change in the media is complex, with fluctuating levels of concern and politicization shaped by political actors' conflicting stances (Anderson, 2019). Media coverage often struggles to balance scientific consensus with journalistic norms of balance and objectivity, sometimes downplaying the actual level of scientific agreement (Gibson et al., 2016; Boykoff & Boykoff, 2004). Politicization leads audiences to rely more on political elites than scientists, affecting public concern and perception (Linde, 2020; Pepermans & Maeseele, 2016). Recent phenomena, such as new climate movements and youth engagement, have revitalized public discourse on climate change, influencing policy agendas (Hultman et al., 2018; Blok et al., 2020). A previous analysis we conducted on climate change representation in Italian media, particularly in prime-time newscasts from January 2020 to September 2023, reveals nuanced patterns and dynamics. Contrary to expectations, there was no consistent increase in climate change coverage. Peaks in coverage were tied to specific events, but the overall trend did not show a steady rise. News content primarily featured general calls to action (59%) rather than specific policy proposals (16%), with political actors presenting a more balanced approach, emphasizing specific policy actions (30%) (Legnante et al. 2024). Climate activists' narratives focused heavily on general calls to action (77%), highlighting challenges in communicating detailed policy recommendations. We continued our research examining television coverage on the occasion of an extreme event, namely the Emilia-Romagna flood in 2023 (Biancalana et al. 2024). In fact, one way to gain firsthand experience of climate change, thus reducing the psychological distance from the issue, is to live through an extreme weather event. Numerous studies demonstrate the relationship between exposure to such events and attitudes toward climate change (Konisky & Kaylor, 2016), though this relationship may vary depending on the type of event (Soni & Mistur, 2022). Media play a key role in this, as they convey different frames through narratives of extreme events, directly influencing public perception and processing of these events (McComas & Shanahan, 1999), but often, there is no connection made by Italian media between extreme weather events and the climate crisis (Azzalini & Marchese, 2022). In our research, we found that only 33 out of 1020 news description segments mentioned climate change. The discussion of flood causes was slightly more prevalent but still minimal, with segments attributing responsibility to local factors like territory morphology and hydrogeological instability, rather than broader climate change issues. Politicians appeared more frequently (364 segments) than scientists (50 segments), indicating a potential dominance of political perspectives over scientific explanations. This imbalance underscores the need for greater visibility of scientific insights in media coverage to better connect extreme weather events to climate change. To enrich the qualitative depth of our research, we have adopted a methodology centered on the analysis of the original videos of the news broadcasts around which we built our research. So far, we have been relying on the bulk of news summaries provided by the raw dataset of Osservatorio di Pavia, and the related key variables. We have transitioned to firsthand examination of the complete news video footage to directly engage with the primary source material, enabling a more nuanced and accurate analysis of the media’s portrayal of the flood. By delving into the integral videos, we aim to uncover deeper insights into the contextual implications and framing within the news coverage (also in view of next phases of our research, in which we aim at comparing these findings with those from digital media platforms to provide a comprehensive understanding of how different media types influence public perception and discourse on climate change during a catastrophe). We aim to shed light on the representation of climate-change-related issues in the media, along with its implications on public understanding and policy responses.
Mona Lisa isn't smiling anymore: How do the climate protests targeting artwork affect public opinion's attitudes and behavior toward the environment?
Elisabetta Mannoni
Abstract
Since May 2022, activists in many countries have been protesting targeting artworks in famous museums and squares, capturing the attention of citizens, media and authorities. They were not immune to criticism and some governments (e.g.,in Italy) issued legislation to specifically sanction environmental activists that commit so-called “acts of eco-vandalism” on artwork or public buildings. The questions arises how exposure to such protests is affecting people's attitudes and behaviours on the environment, and whether it is making public opinion more concerned and willing to engage with pro environmental behavior. To tackle that question, this study examines the impact of the climate protests targeting artwork on three key dependent variables: (i) environmental concern, (ii) propensity to engage with pro-environmental voting, and (iii) pro-environmental behavior. Based on data from an original survey experiment (N=1,000) conducted in Italy, where the highest concentrations of such acts of protest can be found since May 2022, coupled with protest data (e.g., information on where and when the acts of protest took place that might have interested the Italian population), this paper examines whether exposure to the protests targeting artwork affects public opinion’s levels of environmental concern, propensity to vote for pro-environmental parties, and pro-environmental behavior.
Salience and political-media representations of climate change in the italian public debate
Daria Loreti
Abstract
Climate change is gaining increasing prominence in both scientific and public-political spheres. It is a topic of undeniable relevance, yet it carries inherent controversy. While awareness of ecosystem fragility has grown in recent decades, our social and economic systems continue as if we need not grapple with this awareness. This dissociation has been examined from various perspectives. According to Latour (2019), it is our way of thinking that hampers the ability to change our lifestyles; thus, it is our thinking that renders change impossible. A significant strategy to address such individual and political resistances is to combine duty and responsibility by proposing a new image of humanity and a new Weltbild (Weber, 2004). Voices advocating alternative Weltbilder have multiplied in recent years: Murphy's neo-Weberian perspective, Bookchin's ecological anarchism, Arne Naess's Deep Ecology, Donna Haraway's co-becoming, ecofeminism, and ecosophy are just a few examples. However, for some authors, appealing to the concept of responsibility (Pulcini, 2020) is not enough because it risks remaining abstract, while the use of the concept of care as concern and solicitude (Ibidem, 2020) proves to be more appropriate. Taking care means "being solicitous" (Pulcini, 2006) and not stopping at mere assumption of responsibility but acting through operational commitment. Care is a practical ethic that should no longer be confined to an intimate and feminine dimension strictly associated with maternity, nurturing, and caregiving, as this undervalues its universal power (Pulcini, 2009). The concept of care adds to responsibility the practical aspect and the emotional one, invoking empathy: like the ability to see the other (whether geographically and/or chronologically close), feel them, and emotionally participate in their experiences even when the individuals involved belong to future generations. In this perspective, climate change transforms from an apocalyptic warning into an occasion, a window of political, cultural, and social opportunity, and ecological transition into an operation of rewriting the present and the future. Within the public debate, there are various framings of climate change. Different actors propose many interpretations: from alarmist ones (calling for action) to those of scientific skepticism (denial and postponement); narratives emphasizing economic opportunities or excessive costs; the narrative of climate justice or that of resilience and local adaptation, etc. These interpretive packages evolve over time and interact with each other, influencing perceptions (globally, nationally, and locally). This article aims to closely examine this complexity, seeking to identify the main threads of the Italian public debate on climate change. This paper addresses the issue of climate change from a specific perspective: its recognition as a public problem, while also developing an analysis of the conditions under which this issue is constructed as a social problem, considering the role that information and communication can play in this process. Examining the construction of the problem means questioning the type of issue at the heart of the process, analyzing its characteristics, and observing how the problem is inscribed among the concerns and/or action plans of various strategic actors. Literature shows that the topic of public problems is a controversial and highly debated subject, yet crucial for understanding the relationships between society and politics in our democracies. How topics enter the public agenda and how we define a "public problem" are questions that continue to be discussed. The public perception of a potentially public interest issue depends on how the issue is named, framed, and defined. Communication and information play a crucial role in shaping public opinion (Dewulf 2013; Carmichael & Brulle 2017). Multiple actors can contribute to highlighting or obscuring the issue of climate change within the public debate. The media play a significant role, as recognized even by the IPCC. They influence public opinion by emphasizing the issue and raising public concern (Carmichael and Brulle 2017), as well as by presenting different frames (Dewulf 2013). Contextual variables also have a considerable impact on this process, with exogenous variables contributing to the emergence of one specific theme over another (Hilgartner & Bosk,1988). Contextual factors, such as disasters, accidents, etc., can help explain the reasons behind changes (or inertia) in public opinion (Capstick et al., 2015). One primary objective of this study is to observe the attention given to the issue of climate change in the last decade within the Italian public debate by researching specific keywords on various social channels (pages of major news outlets, key political figures, pages of stakeholders, etc.). A second objective is to propose a mapping of the most prevalent frames during the peaks of attention. Reconstructing attention curves will allow us to observe the life cycle of the problem (Downs, 1972) within the debate, and once the peaks are identified, they will be qualitatively analyzed through a content analysis to highlight the most recurrent interpretative frameworks, dominant narratives, and latent ones. From the literature review, the need emerges strongly to consider, in addition to the media's role in transferring relevance, also the framing of problems (Goffman, 1974; Entmann, 1993) . When and how does the topic of climate change enter the Italian public discourse? Who is the issue’s ownership, and how is it framed? Can we identify denialist frame? How much and in what ways is the discussion focused on causes, effects, and solutions? When discussing climate change, what images of the future are proposed, and how politicized are they? Can we talk about polarization? This contribution fills a relatively sparse area of literature and It addresses a gap, offering updated insights.
 

Panel 4.3 Political Leaders and their Fandom


The spectacularization of contemporary political communication and its increasing interrelation with entertainment have encouraged the process of celebrification of political leaders. In a specular way, their followers are more and more resembling true fans, for whom the fandom experience plays a role in the construction of their political identities. The panel intends to cover both sides: on the one hand, who celebrity leaders are and how they capitalize on their celebrity status; on the other hand, how citizens are affected by leaders’ celebrity strategies and react by transforming themselves in fans.

The panel aims at collecting either contributions that may advance theory or empirical research and case studies. The panel invites proposals focusing either on the relationship between political celebrities and legacy and digital media. Legacy media still serve to create and increase their celebrity status, but through digital media leaders are able to interact with their followers and fans. On the other hand, fandom communities may be active offline and online. In particular, papers on fanpages and social media followers who produce digital contents like posts and memes are especially welcome.

Possible topics are:
-leaders’ strategies of self-promotion as celebrities
-leaders’ strategies of fostering intimacy with their followers
-media coverage of leaders as celebrities
- fans’ practices of consuming and producing contents about their leaders, including supporting fan-pages and fan-groups online
-the role of emotions and feeling in the leader/fan relationship

Chairs: Donatella Campus

Discussants: Giovanni Barbieri

Politicians as celebrities, celebrities as politicians. Strategies towards political celebritization in Polish general elections (2023) and European elections (2024).
Olgierd Annusewicz
Abstract
The 2023 Polish parliamentary elections and the 2024 European Parliament elections are a good opportunity to analyze the candidates' strategies for using political celebritization. The aim of the study - apart from checking the forms and content of a celebritized political communication - is to determine the differences in the use of mechanisms of political celebritization between experienced politicians and celebrity candidates, well-known people who decided to enter the world of politics by immediately running for the Polish Parliament or the European Parliament.
Enhancing the memory of the Silvio Berlusconi’s post-mortem leadership: the case of the most active Instagram fanpage “archiviosilvioberlusconi”.
Enrico Ubiali, Eugenio Bagnini
Abstract
Enhancing the memory of the Silvio Berlusconi’s post-mortem leadership: the case of the most active Instagram fanpage “archiviosilvioberlusconi”. This paper aims to analyse the memory of a former Italian Prime Minister's post-mortem leadership. Silvio Berlusconi characterized the Italian political arena since his descent into the field in 1994. His way of communicating has been a watershed between the so-called First and Second Republic, launching several programmatic innovations based on liberal values. This leadership guided the center-right coalition for more than 25 years, winning three elections. On the one hand, Berlusconi paved the way for a polarized populistic rhetoric; on the other hand, he had been targeted by juridical accusations and by the opponents’ propaganda against his figure. Even in the last years of his life, he guided his party Forza Italia and covered the moderate soul of the centre-right coalition. According to this preamble, a community of fans grew up around Silvio Berlusconi during his life, not only the political one. His reputation as a successful entrepreneur and president of the most victorious European football club anticipated his political career. Berlusconi’s political image had grown around the Latin motto “Homo faber fortunae sue”, enhancing, at the same time, sentiments of trust, love, hate, envy, and admiration around himself. After his death, the necessity to measure how Berlusconi’s memory still resists is a matter of analysis. Given the absence of any Foundation entitled to Berlusconi, only individual initiatives, partisan activities, and independent fanship pages emphasise his memory. According to this, the identification of the main independent fanpage devoted to Berlusconi allowed a quali-quantitative research. Followed by about 90 000 active fans, since 2012, the Instagram page archiviosilvioberlusconi shares Berlusconi’s images, videoclips and motivational speeches. After an overall analysis of the page, based on contents and the social media performance, a survey among its followers is expected to outline a perception of the Berlusconi’s leadership after one year from his death. The questionnaire, mainly based on likert scales, outlines the role of Berlusconi’s post-mortem political celebrity in contemporary Italian political debates. His memory is characterized by a mixture of nostalgia and desire to preserve it, valorizing his political vision also for future purposes. The transversal sample embraces not only the fans but also history enthusiasts, devoted to deepening contemporary Italian political affairs. According to the majority of the sample, the desire to strengthen Berlusconi’s memory emerges in the appreciation of the last publications about him and the manifested endorsement towards a potential Foundation. To sum up, this study aims to demonstrate empirically the transversal persistent survival of Silvio Berlusconi’s memory and political legacy among his fans, with a shared desire to consolidate and keep it alive in a more institutionalised way.
Fans will be fans(?) Comparing leader/follower relationships between the political system and the star system
Fabio Bordignon, Luigi Ceccarini, Giacomo Salvarani
Abstract
In the context of the personalization, privatization and intimization of politics, political constituencies are expected to approach the dynamics that characterize fan communities. In this scenario, political leaders tend to perform celebrity roles. Citizen-voters act as leaders’ followers and conceive of themselves as part of a fan community. This involves practices of consumption/production of political narratives and contents in the media space, while the forms of “intimacy at distance” are channelled by the digital media. Despite the growing attention and extensive literature on celebrity politics, the empirical study of the demand side of political fandom has received limited attention, or at least far less attention when compared to the number of studies focusing on the supply side. This paper explores these phenomena in Europe, using data from an original international survey of the voting age population in seven countries (Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom). The research question underlying this study can be expressed as follows: to what extent do leader/follower relationships in the political domain follow the same logic(s) underlying celebrity/fan relationships in other domains of public life, such as the world of entertainment, arts or sports? At least three subsets of questions and related theoretical expectations emerge from this general question. 1) What is the overlap between star-fandom and political-fandom? Are fans of 'other' types of celebrities or stars more likely to develop forms of personalised followship regarding political leaders? 2) What is the weight of personal, private, intimate, emotion-driven and celebrity-status-related factors in the individual attraction for political leaders compared to alternative, traditional components of political identities (ideological positioning and party identification in particular)? Is such weight comparable to what we can observe in the case of stars, celebrities, influencers from other domains of public life? 3) Do the political communities that take shape around political leaders share the same repertoires of consumption and production in the media space that characterise star-fandoms? In answering these questions, the study also adopts a comparative international perspective. This approach will enable to assess whether the emergence of “fandom democracy” is more pronounced in some European countries than in others, and how this dynamic relates to the elements of crisis that have affected each political system in the recent phase.
Picture-perfect: On the relationship between party leader visibility, popularity and voting during party leader elections
Clint Claessen, Maxime Walder
Abstract
Party leaders feature prominently on social media. As figureheads of their party, they are often depicted by their political party and their party members. While the literature extensively covers social media strategy and message narratives, actual appearance of party leaders in images is still under-explored. This paper seeks to fill this gap by arguing that party leader appearance is an indicator of internal political capital by providing analyses of all Instagram images from Canadian, German and British MPs posted from July 2019 to October 2022. We utilize a face recognition classifier that measures how often party leaders are depicted on MPs’ social media. We hypothesize that positive party leader appearance is driven by intra-party support rather than general public support. Our preliminary results display a relationship between these two. As such, we contribute to literature on political capital in general, and on the relationship between internal and external political capital specifically.
The role of affect in Italian, digital, political fandoms
Giovanni Daniele Starita, Roberto Mincigrucci, Sara Consonni
Abstract
The interplay between celebrity culture and political engagement has become a focal point of contemporary political discourse, particularly within the context of Western democracies. The success of John Street’s (2003) conceptualisation of the celebrity politician archetype shows the increasing importance of this interplay for political communication researchers. The proposed study seeks to explore the other side of the coin of this overlap: political fandoms, meaning the social phenomena characterised by the adoption by constituents of fan-like behaviours to express their feelings and attitudes towards their political sphere. Politicians increasingly engage in celebrity-like performances to construct a relatable and attractive public persona. In turn, many political supporters have started to act like fans of their preferred candidate engaging in behaviours resembling those of fans of entertainment and sports celebrities. Crucially, the proliferation of social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok has paved the way for the construction of new social spaces, where fans can express their (negative or positive) attitudes towards political celebrities and even mobilise to support the politician outside the digital realm. In a nutshell, with the spread of social media the line between celebrity fandom and political activism has increasingly blurred. Additionally, recent developments in the social media realm have shown that algorithmic governance and rigid content moderation rules have radically shifted the virtual spaces created by users to be increasingly characterised by inaccessibility, invisibility and liminality (Abidin, 2021). Nonetheless, academic interest in political fandoms phenomena has emerged relatively recently (i.e.: with Sandvoss, 2013). Thus, we seek to employ analytical tools and theoretical concepts extracted from the literature on celebrity politics to expand current understandings of political fandoms. This should not come as a surprise, given the strict relation between the two, and considering that the literature on celebrity politicians gives us multiple insights in the mechanisms that attract the electorate towards high-visibility politicians. Moreover, as our study focuses on digital political fandom, we shall integrate these elements with key concepts drawn from the literature on social media affordances. Specifically, we will look at the role of affect-based interactions, an element inherent to social media (Papacharissi, 2015) and to fan-like behaviours (Sandvoss, 2019), in shaping the relation between constituents and celebrity politicians. Employing this novel theoretical framework drawing from the literature on social media affordances, celebrity politics and political fandom, we seek to devise an empirical analysis of the fandom content produced on Instagram that involves four highly visible, Italian party leaders: Matteo Salvini, Giorgia Meloni, Giuseppe Conte, and Elly Schlein. Drawing from an extensive analysis of the literature on celebrity politics, characterised by high-visibility politicians leveraging their fame to gather consensus, and on social media affordances, the proposed work seeks to delineate the evolution of political celebrity phenomena as candidates adapted their digital personae to widespread social media use. Our research starts from the following question: Given the volatility and fragmentation of publics characteristic of the current digital media landscape, what forms do political fandoms take on social media? Building upon current theoretical understandings of political fandom (Dean, 2017; Sandvoss, 2013), we hypothesise that the defining characteristic of political fandom is the affectivity that permeates fan content, setting it apart from more traditional forms of political engagement often relying on ideological commitment or rational deliberation. The proposed article is structured as follows. First, a theoretical reflection will delve into the existing literature on the relation between fandom and social media affordances. The second phase will include an empirical focus as we seek to map the fandom content related to Italian political leaders on Instagram. This phase aims to use visual (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2006) and multi-modal (Kress, 2013) methods of analysis to conduct a quali-quantitative analysis of the gathered data. Hence, our final aim is to identify emotional cues, thematic concerns, and attitudes expressed towards the leaders that are subjects of fan-like content. In a nutshell, our research seeks to provide a nuanced understanding of the state of fan activities in the Italian digital mediascape, providing a classification of the different types of content we find in relation to the four leaders we focus on. References Abidin, C. (2021). From “Networked Publics” to “Refracted Publics”: A Companion Framework for Researching “Below the Radar” Studies. Social Media + Society, 7(1), 205630512098445. https://doi.org/10/ghwk7q Dean, J. (2017). Politicising fandom. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 19(2), 408–424. Kress, G. (2013). Multimodal discourse analysis. In The Routledge handbook of discourse analysis (pp. 61–76). Routledge. Kress, G. R., & Van Leeuwen, T. (2006). Reading images: The grammar of visual design. Routledge. Papacharissi, Zizi. (2015). Affective publics: Sentiment, technology and politics (1st ed.). Oxford Univ. Press. Sandvoss, C. (2013). Toward an Understanding of Political Enthusiasm as Media Fandom: Blogging, Fan Productivity and Affect in American Politics. Partecipations. Journal of Audience and Reception Studies, 10(1), 252–296. Sandvoss, C. (2019). The Politics of Against: Political Partecipation, Anti-fandom, and Populism (M. C. Anti-fandom, Ed.). New York Univ. Press. Street, J. (2003). The Celebrity politician: Political; style and popular culture. In D. Pels & J. Corner, Media and the Restyling of Politics (pp. 85–98). Sage.
 

Panel 4.4 “The leader as a gesture. Phenomenology, sociology, visual culture and semiology of leadership”


In the hybrid and emotional public space, a complex relational network is constituted that gives substance to the life of the individual both in relation to the self and to the other subjects who animate the same space and to the community of which one is part. These relationships, thanks to the well-known processes of personalization of politics and disintermediation of relations between it and citizens, are also drawn in the political dynamics and consensus, for which the communicative articulations of the leadership tend to take on subjective, immediate and explicitly emotional. Social action and political style thus become interpretable in an increasingly marked emotionalisation key, which adds other dimensions and parameters to the classic Weberian charisma.
Leadership, as a continuous process of interaction with others, defines an observable context which is the result of a relational co-creation of predominantly asymmetric influence (as per historical tradition), but with a growth in the possibilities of horizontalisation determined by platformisation and by the participatory cultures (albeit virtually) facilitated by the hybrid ecosystem and the transitional public sphere. Leadership, in fact, is subject to the socially defined and therefore changing norms of variously delineated relationships of reciprocity and influence - one to one, one to many and many to many - which govern the social dynamics and therefore also the more politically connoted areas such as those related to the search for consensus.
The purpose of this panel is to compare, from a multidisciplinary perspective, theoretical proposals for the interpretation and analysis of leadership experiences and case studies that configure new or renewed ways of communicating and interacting with the public. With particular reference – but the panel is also open to further proposals – to the issues of political identities and cultures, the personalities of leaders, the most recent consensus-building strategies and the search for a closer relationship with the citizen-voters and with the communities, both physical and virtual, which redefine the action of the individual in the public space.

Chairs: Chiara Moroni, Massimiliano Panarari

Discussants: Massimiliano Panarari

Soundtrack for a movement party: music, performance, and party representation throughout the Five Star Movement’s institutionalization process
Damiano Kerma
Abstract
Music is a powerful meaning-making resource for political representation. Multiple sociological approaches to music and musical performances underline their role as framing devices for political issues and actors (DeNora 2000, Street 2012). Starting with Denisoff’s seminal work (1970) a vast literature on the effects of music on political engagement in contentious environments has highlighted its function in gathering support, recruiting individuals, reinforcing values and ideologies, and framing grievances and solutions. Conversely, even within institutional politics, scholars have similarly stressed the vitalizing potential of popular music as an engagement tool for active citizenship (Van Zoonen 2005) and its inherent value in fostering proto-political attitudes in disengaged audiences (Riley 2010), as an alternative, approachable platform for informal political participation (Street, Inthorn, Scott 2015). While the role of music in the construction of collective identities is a well-established topic in social movement studies (Eyerman-Jamison 1998), recent approaches are trying to focus on its interaction with populist actors and attitudes, with Caiani and Padoan (2023) shedding light on the strategic use of music as both a resource for signification and as an organizational tool for populist mobilization. Similarly, party rallies and political events have been analyzed as privileged performative spaces which allow for the articulation of both the audience’s (projected) collective identity and the leader’s political persona (Saward 2006, Paget et al. 2023). As – notwithstanding the definitional struggles – populism can be understood as a political style, that is performed and enacted for an audience through strategically articulated aesthetic repertoires (Moffit-Tormey 2014), Pierre Ostiguy’s socio-cultural approach (2017) significantly links this performative nature of populism to a political leader’s ability to set aside traditional codes and appropriating popular cultural milieus, thus framing themselves as true voice of the “pure people” by means of an aesthetic “mobilizational flaunting of the low”. Stemming from this theoretical framework, the present contribution aims at exploring the interaction between the variation of a populist movement party structure and its aesthetic self-representation strategies from a diachronic perspective, highlighting the performative repertoires deployed to frame its organizational structure when addressing its own constituent base. In order to do so, I rely on a multi-method, qualitative approach to the discursive strategies deployed by the Italian Five Star Movement (M5S) during its major public events from 2009 to 2019, i.e. throughout the main institutionalization phases from its formal foundation to its first governing experience (Campus 2021). The M5S has been regarded as a paradigmatic example of movement party against austerity, which transitioned from a genetic movement phase into the electoral arena albeit with major overlaps in terms of membership and mobilization frames (Della Porta et al. 2017). Throughout its institutionalization process, the M5S also underwent a radical change in its hierarchical structure, shifting from a dual to a multimember leadership (Campus 2021), then further evolving into a more traditional party structure. By working on recordings and transcripts of the main performative events organized by the national organization of the M5S, from the 2010 Woodstock 5 Stelle music festival to the last edition of Italia5Stelle in 2019, I combine an in-depth analysis of discursive frame packages (Van Gorp 2009) in leaders’ and prominent party members’ speeches with Sellnow and Sellnow’s (2001) multi-step method for socio-musicological analysis of musical content and Saward’s (2006) theoretical framework for the analysis of representative claims in political events. Such a multi-faceted methodological approach is deemed necessary to grasp the vastly different dimensions involved a kind of performative expression that juxtaposes explicitly political discursive content and cultural codes conveyed through music and open to interpretation. Dominant frames and recurring representational claims relating to the Movement itself are then put into perspective with the contextual hierarchical transition towards an institutionalized party identity and further away from its premise as Grillo and Casaleggio’s political venture. This analysis allows for a qualitative outlook on the cultural and discursive opportunities exploited by a challenger political actor going through an unstable process of institutionalization, all while claiming continuity with its first mobilization phases. As the relationship between the centralized party organization and its constituency grows more complex, cultural codes and discursive resources are redeployed to frame this transition in front of their audience, while developing a renewed populist identity.
The Leader and the martyrs: visual communication in image and discourse
Enrico Graziani, Roberth Pascal
Abstract
Very little is known about visual political communication in non democratic regimes. In fact, the field of visual political communication has been a serious theoretical concern for researchers for only fifteen years at best (Bucy and Joo, 2021). Nonetheless, the importance of visual communication cannot be underestimated. As Grabe and Bucy put it “visuals are equally processed in the thinking part of the brain and contain a great deal of nuanced social information important for political decision making” (Grabe & Bucy, 2009, p. 21). Research has shown that the role of visuals in political communication is multifaceted and contributes to the conference of political legitimation as visuals “can shape arguments, build the political image, arouse emotions, symbolize broader meanings, help identification, and by documenting the present, they can transport the audience to different times and space, also to add ambiguity” (Farkas, 2023). Given that virtually all studies in visual political communication are conducted from the theoretical standpoint liberal democracy, analysis of political leadership is focused on issues such as personalization (e.g. Karvonen, 2010), celebritization (e.g. Ekman & Widholm, 2017), and populism (e.g. Ekstrom et al., 2018). The present study aims to push the theoretical boundaries of research into visual political communication through the integration of previous theoretical suggestions in the study of visual communication in politics with an analytical framework based in Critical Discourse Analysis. As Gerodimos (2019) has suggested, visual communication research must embrace its interdisciplinary nature as well as the inherent physicality of the visual medium. In a similar vein, Kautt (2018) suggests that it is crucial to consider the dimensions of materiality, of the body, of space-time constellations, of emotionality, of frames, and of collective identities and genres into our understanding of the visual aspects of political communication. Our approach aims to “cross-pollinate” visual communication analysis with the Discourse-Historical approach of Critical Discourse Analysis (Wodak, 2001; 2015) in order to conduct an analysis of the visual representation of the iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, aiming to contextualize the role of the visual representation of the Leader in legitimizing the iranian regime through a case study conducted on a corpus of ten articles and images retrieved from the iranian english newspaper Teherantimes.com. In order to avoid biased analyses, the Discourse-Historical approach takes into account four distinct levels of context: 1) the immediate internal co-text; 2) the intertextual and interdiscursive relationships between texts, genres, and discourses; 3) the extralinguistic variables that constitute the "context of the situation"; 4) the broader socio-political and historical context (Wodak, 2001). Our analysis will proceed from the broader context towards specific textual markers. Firstly, we will explore the historical context of the Iranian revolution and the roots of its political ideology in the Wilāyat-i faqih (Graziani, 2023). Secondly, we will establish the institutional role of Thererantimes.com as a government backed propaganda outlet (Takeyh, 2009). The intertextual/interdiscursive level and the level of co-text will be accounted for in our analysis of strategies of legitimization. Discursive strategies are "a more or less accurate plan adopted to achieve a certain political, psychological or other kind of objective" (Wodak, 2001). Legitimization strategies aim to "accredit or licence a type of social behaviour" by appealing, implicitly or explicitly, to shared "values and visions of the world" (Reyes, 2011). In our analysis we will aim to answer the following research questions: 1)What values does Iranian foreign-facing propaganda appeal to when legitimizing the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini?; 2)What are the objectives of visual political communication concerning the leadership of Khomeini?
Espressioni emotive e leadership politica: uno strumento esplicito di indirizzo semantico
Chiara Moroni
Abstract
Lo spazio pubblico contemporaneo, ibrido e differenziato, è sempre più marcatamente uno spazio emotivo. In questo contesto gli individui agiscono sulla base di “supporti interazionali”, verbali e no. Tra questi supporti l’espressione emotiva, variamente espressa, rappresenta un ponte cognitivo e un rafforzamento espressivo tra gli individui. A fronte di queste dinamiche, sempre più marcate, si è andata sviluppando una teoria complessa sugli effetti sociali dell’espressione emotiva che pone al centro del complesso reticolo relazionale sociale il ruolo della codifica e della decodifica delle emozioni, le sue espressioni e il condizionamento che queste determinano sulle relazioni, sulla buona riuscita della scambio comunicativo e del trasferimento di informazioni, nonché sulla possibile influenza su atteggiamenti e comportamenti di chi riceve il messaggio. Quindi, secondo la teoria socio-funzionale dell’emozione le espressioni emotive svolgono un ruolo vitale nella regolazione dell’interazione sociale (Frijda e Masquita, 1994; Parkinsons, 1996, van Kleef, 2009, 2016 et al.). Se è vero che l’espressione emotiva, soprattutto non verbale, è il risultato di un riflesso fisico spesso non volontario, il suo forte impatto relazionale la rende anche oggetto di strategia comunicativa: le espressioni emotive vengono deliberatamente volte agli osservatori in modo da massimizzarne l’impatto come strumenti di influenza sociale. “Le nostre espressioni emotive sono spesso intese come atti comunicativi rivolti ad un’altra persona piuttosto che riflessi semplici e diretti di uno stato mentale sottostante” (Parkinson, 1996, p. 676). Come è noto la leadership politica si è andata configurando negli anni come relazione personalizzata e sempre più disintermediata tra leader e cittadini. In particolare, i processi di normalizzazione della leadership e la volontà di inserirsi nelle dinamiche relazionali con i canoni espressivi più diffusi e più facilmente riconoscibili e riconosciuti, hanno portato alcuni stili di leadership ad avvalersi, non solo di tecniche comunicative e di scelte tematiche specifiche per suscitare emozioni in chi riceve il messaggio, ma anche di espressioni dirette delle emozioni in modo esplicito e immediatamente percepibile da chi osserva. In questo senso si attiva, anche nella relazione tra leader politico e cittadini, un processo deliberativo e cognitivamente impegnativo che porta i cittadini a cogliere nelle emozioni esplicite del leader inferenze valutative (appraisal) sugli stati interiori di colui che le esprime, sulle sue intenzioni sociali, sul suo orientamento verso gli altri e sulla relativa valutazione che egli fa della situazione. Sulla base di questo processo vengono realizzate analisi sulle dinamiche di interazione per definire le inferenze possibili attivate negli osservatori dalle espressioni emotive dell’interlocutore. Inferenze che possono influenzare atteggiamenti e comportamenti di chi osserva (tracking, van Kleef, 2004). Con il presente lavoro di intende analizzare, sulla base delle teorie di appraisal e sul relativo metodo di analisi delle inferenze, la comunicazione fortemente incentrata sull’espressività emotiva della Presidente del Consiglio Giorgia Meloni, valutando il rapporto che intercorre tra l’espressione istintiva e quella strategica, oltre che naturalmente le finalità comunicative di certi comportamenti emotivamente espliciti.
Fra discorso politico e missione collettiva nella retorica di Xi Jinping
Valentina Pettosini
Abstract
Nel sistema politico cinese, determinato da un forte accentramento partitico nel sistema nazionale, il ruolo del segretario di partito – coincidente al tempo stesso con alte cariche governative come il Presidente – assume forte rilevanza nella ricerca politologica. Allo stesso tempo, un sistema comunemente definito monolitico come il Partito Comunista Cinese conta un percentuale elevatissima di esponenti, con diverse interpretazioni politiche all’interno della sua stessa struttura. Gli studi attuali evidenziano come l’evoluzione del sistema politico stia ricreando un sistema più centralizzato e personalistico da ritrovarsi, per esempio, nella propagazione agiografica del pensiero di Xi. Il consolidamento del ruolo del Presidente come "core leader", oltre all’evoluzione istituzionale e politica, è da rintracciare in una fitta serie di stretti legami e trame di rapporti sociali (guanxi) che diventa dunque un simbolo ed emblema nazionale mentre viene sostenuto dall’appartenenza alla fitta rete di legami. I legami e l’interazione fra Xi e i compagni di partito, le alte cariche, e le sfere governative e amministrative, giocano un forte ruolo nella costruzione dell’identità collettiva. A livello discorsivo, l’identità può infatti rimodellarsi attraverso procedimenti comunicativi che si tramutano in espressioni di un particolare gruppo sociale e nel successivo uso normativo collettivo che gli stessi membri ne compiono. Il discorso diviene dunque interazione e partecipazione, e sostiene la creazione di trame intrinseche del sistema stesso, mentre al contempo determina il focus comune delle stesse azioni e del riconoscimento identitario. Sul piano dell’interazione, l’identità collettiva si pone alla base delle relazioni partitiche. A questo proposito, la ricerca indaga quali strategie e quali mezzi vengano utilizzati a livello retorico dal presidente Xi per identificare quali siano esattamente le missioni a livello collettivo, oltre il semplice ruolo politico. Attraverso un’analisi testuale dei rapporti del XIX e XX Congresso, si vogliono individuare dei pattern in merito ai riferimenti della missione collettiva che viene retoricamente annunciata. In particolare, la ricerca si concentra nel comprendere, sul piano stilistico, quali siano i pronomi personali o soggetti specificati predominanti, quale sia l’orizzonte temporale predominante nel discorso (passato, presente o futuro) e, in particolare, quali siano i complementi di riferimento fondamentali: per chi siamo? Per il popolo, per il partito, per la nazione o per il socialismo con caratteristiche cinesi? A livello discorsivo, si vuole individuare il reggente del discorso politico con cui il leader si relaziona ai suoi compagni di partito. Comparando i rapporti degli ultimi due congressi, e valutando l’evoluzione intorno ai punti focali, si andrà ad analizzare il discorso politico in ottica di politica militante, cercando di delineare quale sia l’obiettivo pragmatico della mobilitazione nel discorso politico del Presidente Xi.
Political leaders or social media influencers? The cases of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Chiara Ferragni
Diego Ceccobelli, Arianna Colombo
Abstract
There is a growing field of research that currently gives significant attention to the concept of authenticity, which is considered by many as the "golden goose" of contemporary political communication. The central thesis of this research area suggests that among the primary factors essential for constructing and sustaining political consensus today, the ability to be perceived by voters as credible, genuine, and trustworthy is crucial, although not the sole factor. If we extend our view beyond the political sphere, the perception of authenticity is now central in many other fields, such as influencer marketing – consider what happened to one of the most popular social media influencers globally, Chiara Ferragni, after she lost the perception of authenticity in the eyes of millions of social media users due to some scandals that involved her personally. Although the perception of authenticity plays an increasingly important role in many sectors where communication is central, both political and otherwise, according to a recent theory developed by Diego Ceccobelli and Luigi Di Gregorio (2022), known as the "triangle of leadership," it is not enough to invoke this concept to explain the success (or failure) of various types of actors: at least two additional significant factors should be considered: ordinariness and competence. These three factors together form a triangle of leadership, which postulates that the effectiveness of a political figure lies in their ability to be perceived simultaneously as authentic (A), ordinary (O), and competent (C). In other words, politicians who can successfully embody and balance these three dimensions have a higher likelihood of garnering support and maintaining political consensus. We believe this “magic formula” works not only for political actors but also for social media influencers. This results in the following research question: “Do political leaders and social media influencers need the same combination of factors in order to succeed within different communicative arenas?” To answer this research question, this paper aims to examine the applicability of the "triangle of leadership" to two different cases: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), a successful contemporary political figure known for her ability to build and maintain political consensus, and Chiara Ferragni, one of the most successful social media influencers worldwide, although currently experiencing a crisis in her ability to maintain her influencer status and economic power. Drawing on the comparison of these two different, but in our view, also very similar cases, this paper conducts an extensive literature review on both AOC and Chiara Ferragni. Based on the findings of this review, the paper argues that both Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Chiara Ferragni possess a unique combination and balance of authenticity, competence, and ordinariness. It is their ability to embody these qualities simultaneously that allows them to be perceived as credible, capable, and relatable figures, contributing to their effectiveness in managing and mastering consensus-building practices within different socio-economic and political arenas. Finally, it argues that although the perception of competence, ordinariness, and authenticity are strategic today in pursuing one’s strategic purposes both in politics and within the influencer economy, once the perception of authenticity fades, then the “magic touch” of an opinion leader, in whatever field they operate, may disappear forever.
The actor vs the role. French Presidents through the 2015 and 2020 crises.
Laurie Boussaguet, Florence Faucher
Abstract
The actor vs the role. French Presidents through the 2015 and 2020 crises. In times of crisis, political leaders are expected to lead society out of trouble. However, their success requires much more than the mere ability to restore order: their task is to persuade the population to hold on to the polity and follow a path back to a renewed normality. To achieve this, leaders engage in symbolic actions to influence both hearts and minds. To grasp the full scope of this symbolic work of persuasion, it is important to consider not only wordcraft, arguments, and narratives and frames, but also the visual and performative elements – stagecraft, gestures, emotions, and the character delivering the speeches. In this paper, we show how the gesture is more influenced by the role and the position the leader occupies than by the individual characteristics of the person (the actor) who embodies it. We do so by comparing two dramatic episodes — the January 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 in France — and thus by analyzing the gestures of two French Presidents (François Hollande in 2015 and Emmanuel Macron in 2020). Through this analysis of their performance, we are able to highlight how this symbolic work is shaped by the Presidents' personas (a composite of their personality, qualities, leadership style, and personal background) as well as, and more importantly, by the institutional structures, the national repertoire of symbolic actions, and the broader framework defining the role of Presidents. We proceed as follows: first, we discuss the idea that leaders can be analyzed as gestures, examining their performances as the most effective method for understanding the symbolic work they undertake during crises. Second, we follow the template of social anthropologist Victor Turner’s social dramas: this allows us to conduct a systematic comparison of how the two French Presidents responded to recent crises (2015 and 2020). The last section discusses our findings regarding the relative significance of the role versus the individual actor, leading to our concluding remarks.
 

Panel 4.5 Youth Engagement in the European Public Sphere: Communication flows and Challenges


The panel focuses on the Europen Union space of debate opened up by young people, considering their involvement in multiform transnational flows of communication. It investigates the practices of communication activated by young citizens as innovative form of participation, both formal supported by Institutions and informal, which contribute to shape of the European public sphere (Belluati, Marini 2019; D’Ambrosi, Parito 2022; Trenz 2023). This plurality of flows and practices is not only spread and made visible on the digital enviroment, but also portrayed in media coverage, and integrated throughout public sector communication strategies and initiatives (Lovari, D’Ambrosi, Bowen 2020).
The researche documents the propensity among young people to engage in "unconventional participation" (Norris 1999), nevertheless there is also an interesting reversal of trend observable in their relationship with institutional politics. After decades of distrust towards parties, governments, and parliaments (Sampugnaro 2024), there are significant signs of countertrend among the youth, both at the national and European levels. In the European elections of 2019, there was an increase in participation compared to the previous round, and in particular among the younger generation the highest increase in participation and the most innovative proposal of hybrid and convergent communicative formats have been observed (Jenkins 2006; Chadwick 2016). The European election of 2024 provide an opportunity to evaluate whether there will be, or not, a strengthening of this trend, considering the complicated scenario. The succession of global crises (economic, migratory, pandemic, and warfare) have impacted the daily lives of citizens and the uncertainty has increased, in particular among younger generation. Furthermore, the public debate has shifted towards the European dimension which for the young citizen, 'European natives', could be a natural framework for their 'every-day participation' (Pirni, Raffini 2022).
The rapid evolution of the communication technology and the spread of AI are other challenges for the engagement of the young citizens. In this light, participation represents a fundamental interest in the digital transition stage of public communication policy and the development of professions (Ducci, Materassi, Solito 2020). In the policy-making of European and national institutions, among communication strategies and tools, the need to promote initiatives of deliberative democracy (Bobbio 2013) is clearly emphasized in order to extend citizenship rights through inclusive democratic participation. On the other hand, within the realms of dis/misinformation and hate speech, the issue of participation within the digital ecosystem is positioned as a strategic resource for constructing a European information space.
The panel welcomes contributions (in English or Italian) exploring one or more of the following thematic areas:
• The evolving dynamics of European communication models and strategies in the digital transition.
• The impact of public sector communication in promoting participatory processes, especially among youth.
• The role of social media as pivotal platforms for fostering trust and enhancing youth participation in political discourse.
• The challenges posed by disinformation within the European context and strategies for effective mitigation.
• The mobilisation effects on voting of informal youth groups in the 2024 European election campaign: communication strategies and involvement with European institutions activities.

Chairs: Lucia D'ambrosi, Mariaeugenia Parito

Discussants: Marinella Belluati

Electoral Memes: la comunicazione memetica come strumento di socializzazione alla cultura politica europea
Junio Aglioti Colombini, Roberta Bracciale
Abstract
«Com’è l’acqua?». «Ma cosa diavolo è l’acqua?». David Foster Wallace in occasione della cerimonia delle lauree al Kenyon college, il 21 maggio 2005, descriveva in questo modo lo scambio tra un pesce anziano e due giovani pesci che per la prima volta venivano messi di fronte alla richiesta di riflettere su quello in cui erano immersi. Wallace richiamava questo aneddoto per riflettere sul momento di passaggio della cerimonia di laurea, ma questa stessa metafora sembra particolarmente adatta a spiegare il rapporto tra giovani e comunità europea: uno spazio – culturale, politico e geografico – in cui vivono ma che sembra essere sempre altro da loro, lontano. L'Unione Europea, infatti, nonostante abbia unito cittadini e cittadine di diverse nazioni dando loro obiettivi comuni, si deve ancora oggi confrontare con il funzionamento e le decisioni provenienti dalle varie istituzioni europee, che condizionano le scelte dei singoli paesi. Queste sfide si manifestano in maniera chiara alla vigilia delle elezioni del Parlamento Europeo del giugno 2024, quando oltre 447 milioni di elettrici ed elettori saranno chiamati a eleggere i loro rappresentanti per i prossimi cinque anni. Un tema cruciale in queste elezioni è la partecipazione al voto che in molti paesi, tra cui l'Italia, è in costante declino (Parlamento Europeo, 2019). Questo calo è attribuibile non solo alla disaffezione per la democrazia (Pharr e Putnam, 2000) e alla sfiducia nella politica (Rosanvallon, 2012), ma anche a un sistema politico che fatica a trovare strategie efficaci per stimolare l'engagement civico e politico, riducendo la percezione di distanza tra cittadinanza e decisori politici. In questo scenario, i meme, sembrano rispondere in maniera dinamica ed efficace alla necessità di trovare forme creative e coinvolgenti di portare l’agenda politica nelle diete mediali delle cittadine e dei cittadini. Come artefatti culturali che si pongono all’intersezione tra le pratiche di produsage (Bruns, 2008) e le opportunità partecipative offerte dalle piattaforme digitali (Highfield, 2016), anche grazie al tono umoristico e di intrattenimento che li caratterizza, si sono rivelati chiavi vincenti per i formati della politica pop (Mazzoleni e Sfardini, 2009; Mazzoleni e Bracciale, 2019). Trattandosi di forme simboliche transmediali, che si diffondono in maniera virale grazie al contributo degli/delle utenti in rete, i meme riescono a mettere in relazione la molteplicità delle esperienze individuali, riuscendo a generare più complesse e articolate forme culturali di partecipazione connettiva e collettiva (Bennett e Segerberg, 2013). Che siano sotto forma di testi, immagini, gif, video o remix musicali i meme hanno finito con il caratterizzare sempre di più i repertori partecipativi delle cittadine e dei cittadini, in particolare dalle generazioni più giovani (Jakubowski, 2021) che, impegnandosi in talvolta complesse attività di cultural jamming, utilizzano gli elementi della cultura popolare per raccontare la propria vita quotidiana, esprimere le proprie emozioni e commentare gli eventi che attraversano l’agenda pubblica. Questa incessante ibridazione tra cultura popolare e cultura politica produce un effetto dirompente di memizzazione della sfera pubblica: tutti gli attori sociali utilizzano i meme per costruire o intervenire nell’agenda pubblica (Bracciale e Aglioti Colombini, 2023). Grazie alla loro struttura leggera, ma al contempo altamente informativa, i meme non sono solo semplici strumenti di intrattenimento ma svolgono un ruolo significativo nell’educare e informare il pubblico, agendo come parte integrante dei processi di apprendimento passivo dell'informazione e ampliando l'orizzonte informativo delle/degli utenti, in modo talvolta involontario (Boukes, 2019). Questa funzione è particolarmente rilevante in periodi critici, come gli appuntamenti elettorali, nei quali la capacità dei meme di coinvolgere attivamente le/gli elettori può tradursi in una maggiore partecipazione al processo democratico, così come nell’ampliamento degli effetti negativi della propaganda computazionale (DiResta, 2018). Sulla base di questo quadro teorico, il contributo proposto si focalizza sull’analisi dei meme come strumenti capaci di rendere l'ambiente burocratico e normativo più accessibile e comprensibile a cittadine e cittadini. L'analisi si concentra sulle caratteristiche, le funzioni e le strategie impiegate nella narrazione memetica dell’Unione Europea, indagando in che modo questa forma di comunicazione sia stata adoperata per trasmettere i concetti e i valori fondanti, oltre che i meccanismi di funzionamento dell'Unione Europea. Il caso di studio analizza l'account "DG MEME", attivo su Instagram e Facebook, nato poco prima delle elezioni europee del 2019. La pagina utilizza i meme per illustrare "le storie, i sogni, i drammi e la commedia" dell'UE, avvicinando la politica europea a cittadine e cittadini attraverso una chiave satirica e accessibile. I contenuti sono stati raccolti via CrowdTangle (2024) e analizzati tramite un approccio mixed-methods e data driven che incorpora tecniche specifiche per l'analisi visuale dei meme politici (Al-Rawi et al. 2021; Bracciale e Aglioti Colombini 2021; de Saint Laurent, Glăveanu, Literat 2021), con l’obiettivo di osservare in che modo i meme riescano a semplificare questioni complesse, trasformandole in un linguaggio collettivo più fruibile e più integrato con i repertori comunicativi delle persone più giovani. Inoltre, l’analisi cross-platform di Instagram e Facebook rende possibile valutare in che modo le specifiche affordances delle piattaforme intervengono nella costruzione e nel successo dei meme.
La partecipazione dei giovani alle Elezioni europee: una sfida comunicativa
Fabrizia Pasciuto, Lucia D'Ambrosi, Mariaeugenia Parito
Abstract
Le elezioni europee 2024 costituiscono una fase di particolare interesse per verificare le modalità di partecipazione dei cittadini dopo due eventi critici, la pandemia di Covid e la guerra in Ucraina, che hanno influito sulla visibilità dell’Unione. Tutte le crisi del XXI secolo hanno politicizzato il dibattito sull’UE e europeizzato il dibattito pubblico, ma quelle più recenti hanno caratteristiche peculiari. Next Generation EU è un programma di ingenti finanziamenti che inverte, soprattutto per i paesi mediterranei, la logica dell’austerità insistendo su transizione digitale e transizione verde; mentre la guerra in Ucraina interroga sul ruolo dell’Unione nello scenario geopolitico. Si è progressivamente sviluppato uno spazio pubblico europeo “di fatto” in cui si confrontano o scontrano un ampio spettro di posizioni tra l’euroscetticismo e l’euroentusiasmo (Belluati e Marini 2019, Trenz 2023). In ogni caso lo scenario in cui articola il dibattito è qualificato da un insieme di fattori, tra loro intrecciati, che possono incidere sulla integrità del processo elettorale (Sampugnaro, Trenz 2024): le logiche della piattaformizzazione che favoriscono polarizzazione, echo chamber e filter bubble; la datification che incoraggia il microtargeting; l’uso in chiave propagandistica di disinformazione e misinformazione; la diffusione dell’ intelligenza artificiale che amplifica la creazione di contenuti dalla dubbia attendibilità. In questo contesto, ipotizziamo che la generazione, allo stesso tempo, di nativi europei e di nativi digitali, partecipi al dibattito in vista delle elezioni attraverso una molteplicità di flussi simbolici, favoriti dai media digitali, che portano uno sguardo e punti di vista peculiari (D’Ambrosi, Parito 2022; Parito, Pérez-Calle D’Ambrosi 2022). Da una parte, i giovani sono più propensi a sviluppare un “European-based way of thinking” che impatta sul senso di appartenenza all'UE e sulla disponibilità a partecipare al dibattito pubblico in forme spontanee e creative; dall’altra hanno sempre vissuto in un contesto in cui all’europeismo di principio che sosteneva l’integrazione europea, si affiancano differenti articolazioni dell’ euroscetticismo, hanno ampio consenso partiti sovranisti e nazionalisti, l’uscita dall’Ue è diventata una realtà con la Brexit. Le elezioni europee 2019 hanno registrato un aumento dei votanti rispetto alle tornate precedenti, raggiungendo la più alta affluenza dal l999 e, in particolare, l’inversione di tendenza ha avuto i giovani come protagonisti. Con l’avvicinarsi delle elezioni europee 2024, dati Eurobarometro di aprile, indicano che il 67% dei giovani italiani di 15-30 anni e il 64% degli europei hanno intenzione di votare, inoltre il 40% degli italiani e il 38% degli europei ritengono che il voto sia un modo per far sentire la voce dei giovani. Va ricordato che le politiche europee riguardanti dimensioni culturali e sociali considerano i giovani un obiettivo prioritario per sostenere la conoscenza, i valori, la fiducia e il senso di appartenenza all'Unione europea. Inoltre, le politiche riguardanti i media, la comunicazione, la disinformazione e l'ambiente digitale sottolineano l'importanza di responsabilizzare i cittadini, in particolare i più giovani, al fine di sostenere la coesione sociale e il processo democratico. In questo contesto, il paper presenta i primi risultati di uno studio che mira ad esplorare la partecipazione dei giovani nei flussi di comunicazione all'interno della sfera pubblica europea, esaminando gli eventi e le attività promosse da alcune organizzazione spontanee o con gradi diversi di formalizzazione, nel periodo precedente alle elezioni europee 2024. Il contributo si focalizza sull'analisi dei temi, delle aspettative per il futuro, delle strategie comunicative adottate e della percezione dell’impatto delle disinformazione, sul modo in cui ragazze e ragazzi e le associazioni giovanili in cui sono coinvolti attivamente promuovono eventi e dibattiti incentrati sull’Unione Europea e sulle sue dinamiche, contribuendo ad una maggiore comprensione delle modalità di voto ed evidenziando l’importanza della partecipazione politica. In particolare, viene esplorato il fenomeno della disinformazione e il potenziale inquinamento della campagna elettorale, valutando quanto questo possa influenzare il voto dei giovani, un segmento cruciale dell'elettorato. Metodologicamente, la ricerca usa un approccio qualitativo impiegando interviste semi-strutturate in profondità, condotte nel periodo tra marzo e maggio 2024. Le interviste sono state condotte di persona o tramite la piattaforma Google Meet, scelta strategicamente per colmare le distanze geografiche e facilitare una raccolta dati completa. Riferimenti bibliografici Belluati, M., Marini, R. (2019). «Ripensare all’Unione europea. La nuova ecologia del suo spazio comunicativo». In Problemi dell’informazione, 1, pp. 3-28. D’Ambrosi L., M. Parito, (2022) Involvement of Young Citizens in Transnational Communications flows: Together for Europe, in “DeEuropa” , 2, pp. 121-138 ISSN 2611-853X (fascia A); Parito M., Pérez-Calle R, D’Ambrosi L. (2022), European Sentiment in time of crises. The point of view of young university students, in “Società Mutamento Politica SMP”, 13(25), pp. 235-246, ISSN 2038-3150 https://doi.org/10.36253/smp-13441(fascia A): R Sampugnaro R., Trenz HJ (2014), Saving the Elections. EU Strategies to Fight Disinformation in the Age of Post-truth Politics. In Comunicazione Politica,1, pp. 85-106. Trenz, H.J (2023). Democracy and Public Sphere. From Dystopia and Back to Utopia. Bristol: University Press.
Partecipazione 2.0: i chatbot come strumenti per l’engagement giovanile nella nuova sfera pubblica europea
Sara Pane, Marco Bruno, Marinella Belluati
Abstract
Nonostante gli sforzi profusi sin dagli albori del nuovo millennio per rendere le questioni europee più accessibili e comprensibili per i cittadini, il persistere del cosiddetto deficit di comunicazione dell'Unione Europea (UE) rimane evidente (Lovari & Belluati, 2023). Il concetto si riferisce alla difficoltà dell'UE nel trasmettere in modo efficace le proprie tematiche ai cittadini. Gli studiosi evidenziano che il deficit di comunicazione è, in realtà, collegato ad altre tipologie di deficits che, oltre all’ambito della comunicazione, coinvolgono altre tre dimensioni della vita socio-politica dell’Europa unita: l’informazione, la partecipazione e la democrazia (Belluati & Marini, 2019; Pasquino, 2000). Per questo motivo, si può parlare di un deficit “sfaccettato”. Le istituzioni europee incontrano ostacoli nella comunicazione diretta e, di conseguenza, nella diffusione dell'informazione attraverso i canali dell'opinione pubblica europea. Ciò ha un impatto anche sul piano della partecipazione, e in particolare tra i giovani. La nozione stessa di partecipazione, che si richiama (seppur non in maniera inequivocabile) ai concetti di rappresentanza e di cittadinanza, ha subito nel corso degli ultimi Sessant’anni una revisione in termini teorico-concettuali (Leone & Caramiello, 2021; Sorice, 2020). Durante le prime fasi dell’integrazione europea, la partecipazione era prevalentemente concepita in riferimento alla mobilitazione e alla militanza politica (Sorice, 2020). Tuttavia, contestualmente alla crisi della democrazia rappresentativa, dei partiti politici e delle ideologie, si sono sviluppate forme di partecipazione alternative, prevalentemente “dal basso” e funzionali alla costruzione di uno spazio pubblico europeo indipendente dal circuito politico-rappresentativo (Sorice, 2020). Queste pratiche di coinvolgimento civico si sono moltiplicate nel corso dei decenni, anche se con andamento incostante, fino a costruire e legittimare dei percorsi creativi di partecipazione attiva che non si limitano alla mera partecipazione al voto (Hoikkala, 2009; Moro, 2013). La progressiva integrazione delle tecnologie dell’informazione e della comunicazione e, in tempi più recenti dell’Intelligenza Artificiale (IA), all’interno delle strategie di comunicazione europee ha promosso la transizione verso un modello di comunicazione più orientata al cittadino, maggiormente accessibile (tanto nei contenuti quanto nei canali) e rafforzata nella sua componente user-friendly. Il digitale è stato identificato come un fattore chiave nella costruzione di questo nuovo paradigma della comunicazione pubblico-istituzionale europea, che si caratterizza per l'adozione di approcci innovativi e partecipativi per interagire con i suoi stakeholders: i cittadini. Aumentare la capacità di outreach e rinsaldare l’engagement figurano tra gli obiettivi di questa scelta operativa promossa dalle rispettive Direzioni Generali che si occupano di comunicazione all’interno del cosiddetto “triangolo istituzionale” europeo. Ciononostante, è relativamente poco indagato il contributo che l’IA, specie quella generativa, potrebbe offrire. I chatbots, in particolare, rappresentano una prospettiva di osservazione privilegiata ma, relativamente poco indagata all’interno di uno spazio pubblico europeo sempre più dematerializzato. Ancor più se l’ambito di applicazione diventa quello della partecipazione giovanile. In un recente studio, Väänänen et al. (2020) considerano i potenziali benefici che i “civic chatbots” potrebbero avere nel promuovere forme di partecipazione attiva tra i giovani cittadini. A partire da queste premesse, il presente contributo intende rispondere alla seguente domanda di ricerca: Gli strumenti di AI generativa (come i chatbot) possono essere integrati nelle strategie di comunicazione istituzionale europea per promuovere l’engagement giovanile nella nuova sfera pubblica europea? Nel rispondere a questo obiettivo, saranno presentati i risultati preliminari di una ricerca (non ultimata) sull’evoluzione della policy di comunicazione europea, e in particolare delle sue nuove sfide, tra cui quella dell’IA. Riferimenti Belluati, M., & Marini, R. (2019). Ripensare all'Unione Europea. La nuova ecologia del suo spazio comunicativo. Problemi dell'informazione, 44(1), 3-28. Hoikkala, T. (2009). The diversity of youth citizenships in the European Union. Young, 17(1), 5-24. Leone, S., & Caramiello, L. (2021). Cittadinanza creativa: giovani, partecipazione, innovazione, educazione. Cittadinanza creativa, 1-183. Lovari, A., & Belluati, M. (2023). We Are All Europeans. EU Institutions Facing the Covid-19 Pandemic and Information Crisis. In Infodemic Disorder: Covid-19 Coping Strategies in Europe, Canada and Mexico (pp. 65-96). Cham: Springer International Publishing. Moro, G. (2013). Cittadinanza attiva e qualità della democrazia. Roma: Carocci. Pasquino, G. (2000). Deficit democratico e leadership nell'Unione europea. Teoria politica. Fascicolo 1, 2000, 1000-1021. Sorice, M. (2020). La partecipazione politica nel tempo della post-democrazia. Culture e Studi del Sociale, 5(2), 397-406. Väänänen, K., Hiltunen, A., Varsaluoma, J., & Pietilä, I. (2020). CivicBots–Chatbots for supporting youth in societal participation. In Chatbot Research and Design: Third International Workshop, CONVERSATIONS 2019, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, November 19–20, 2019, Revised Selected Papers 3 (pp. 143-157). Springer International Publishing.
TikTok e la materializzazione della sfera pubblica effimera.
Valeria Donato, Giovanni Boccia Artieri
Abstract
La concezione liberale dello stato-nazione moderno trova un suo fondamento nell’esistenza di una sfera pubblica in cui i cittadini si informano e dibattono di problemi comuni in uno spazio autonomo di comunicazione e mediazione tra lo stato e la società civile (Habermas, 1991). Seppur considerando le numerose critiche alla teoria habermasiana, vale la pena considerare come questa rimanga una prospettiva interessante da cui partire per riflettere sul problema democratico nella quotidianità del mondo moderno (Calhoun, 1992). Benché la gran parte della letteratura si sia concentrata nell’affermare come il processo di cittadinanza sopravviva solo in un regime di comunicazione libera e di possibilità d’accesso e di scelta tra informazioni diverse, il ruolo sempre maggiore dei media digitali sembra averne cambiato – quando non eroso –i connotati. Il cittadino è, infatti, oggi costantemente informato, pluralmente ed immediatamente cosciente di fatti e punti di vista negoziati, però, non più solo dall’economia politica dei media quanto piuttosto dalla loro struttura tecnico-algoritmica. Infatti, la rete e le sue parcellizzazioni – id est le piattaforme – contribuiscono a rendere l'infrastruttura materiale e informativa della sfera pubblica sempre più complessa, ubiqua benché più centralizzata. In particolare, negli ultimi anni le piattaforme hanno acquisito un significativo predominio, riuscendo a garantirsi il controllo sui prodotti culturali così come su quelli politici; financo a dettare le comunicazioni e proposte stesse degli attori politici (Poell et al., 2019). In tal senso, la piattaformizzazione è riuscita a promuovere una riorganizzazione delle pratiche e degli immaginari riuscendo a impattare e plasmare il modo in cui i pubblici vengono informati e le modalità attraverso cui si organizza la produzione e la diffusione dei contenuti. Le piattaforme digitali costituiscono quindi vaste arene in cui si materializza la gerarchizzazione e l'incorniciamento dei fatti, sociali e politici, e in cui si forma la rappresentazione del mondo e le questioni che lo attraversano (Fuchs, 2015). Pertanto, investigarne le specificità sociotecniche può aiutare a risolvere le difficoltà di comprensione e partecipazione alla sfera pubblica già da tempo documentate (Latour, 2011). In tal senso, un modo efficace per risolvere tali complessità può risiedere nello studio delle affordances di piattaforma. Le affordances dei social media, infatti, se da un lato sono state ampiamente descritte come semplificatrici dell'interattività e della partecipazione (Jenkins, 2006); dall’altro lato, vanno lette come strumenti di determinazione e cocreazione della sfera pubblica (Bruns & Highfield, 2015). A tal proposito, Theocharis e colleghi (2023) hanno investigato come le affordances di Twitter e Facebook possano impattare nella scelta e partecipazione politica, sottolineando come come l'architettura tecnica e pratica delle piattaforme contribuisca a determinare delle differenze nel comportamento sociale e politico dei cittadini. Inesplorato, invece, pare ancora il caso di TikTok, piattaforma le cui innovazioni strutturali hanno contribuito alla nascita di nuove forme di interazione sociale, culturale e politica (Boccia Artieri et al., 2022). Il presente lavoro, dunque, si propone di investigare l’impatto che le peculiari caratteristiche tecniche di TikTok hanno avuto e hanno sulla formazione della sfera pubblica. Se, infatti, il potere si costruisce anche attraverso il racconto che se ne fa (Castells 2009), allora chiedersi se e come le affordances di TikTok contribuiscano a determinare nuove caratteristiche della sfera pubblica sembra dirsi un elemento necessario per comprendere tanto il potere delle piattaforme che la malleabilità del rapporto tra tecnologia e potere, identitario e politico, dello stato. Per fare questo, si è dunque operato un’etnografia di piattaforma e un’etnografia delle affordances (Hine, 2017; Costa, 2018) di TikTok così da capire a) che impatto queste determinino nella costruzione della sfera pubblica di TikTok, b) quanto questa corroda e/o corrobori gli aspetti tradizionali della tradizionale sfera pubblica e, più in generale c) come lo studio delle affordances di piattaforma possa contribuire a disvelare le trasformazioni strutturali già in corso della sfera pubblica. Se dunque, comprendere le evoluzioni della sfera pubblica sia già un’urgenza largamente avvertita dalla comunità accademica, riconoscerne le granularità contestuali può offrire una nuova chiave di lettura per comprendere la pervasità delle interconnessioni tra politica, tecnologia e cittadinanza.
 

Panel 4.6 Constructing the Digital Polis: The Convergence of Politics and Pop Culture


In the digital age, political communication has undergone a significant transformation, intertwining with popular culture and transcending traditional discourse through the pervasive effects of platformization. This evolution fosters participation and collective creativity, transforming users into both produsers and active contributors within the public sphere. The transmedia spread of digital artifacts catalyzes a "polyvocal public conversation," enriching public discourse with diverse perspectives encouraging broad participation, even as it navigates the challenges posed by algorithmic logics like echo chambers and filter bubbles.

User-generated content has expanded the scope of digital citizenship and influenced agenda-setting, leading to the formation of micro-communities within the digital realm. Using platform affordances and humor has become a crucial strategy for re-engaging citizens who are disillusioned or indifferent to traditional political narratives, introducing unconventional yet effective modes of participation. Political campaigns were also affected by these developments. However, this new landscape is not without its pitfalls, as it also facilitates the spread of information disorders and polarization. The same tools that enable digital citizens can also be used to spread misinformation and widen polarization, which can compromise the integrity of the digital public sphere.

We invite papers that delve into the phenomena of Pop Politics on digital platforms, examining:
? Social media's role in fostering micro-activism and digital citizenship
? Creativity as a pivotal form of digital cultural capital
? Information disorders and polarization dynamics in the digital public sphere
? AI's contribution to the popularization of politics
? The implications of new platform affordances and logics (e.g.TikTok)
? The role of produsage and the rise of collective and connective actions
? The use of humor and irony in digital political discourse
? The political significance of Internet Memes culture
? The influence of platformization on political engagement and electoral campaigns

Contributions may adopt theoretical, empirical, or methodological lenses, employing qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods approaches. We particularly welcome comparative studies that offer cross-platform and cross-national insights into Pop Politics, encouraging innovative methodologies to explore these intersecting dimensions. Submissions may be presented in Italian or English.

Chairs: Junio Aglioti Colombini, Roberta Bracciale

Discussants: Gianpietro Mazzoleni

Informazione, intrattenimento o estrazione commerciale dei dati? Gli atteggiamenti dei cittadini di fronte alle piattaforme digitali
Arianna Colombo, Guido Legnante, Susanna Sassi
Abstract
Da tempo il cambiamento delle modalità con cui i cittadini si informano e si rapportano alla vita pubblica è al centro dell’interesse degli studiosi. In un contesto di informazione ibrida [Chadwick, 2013], in cui da un lato si assiste ad un accesso immediato, quasi sempre in tempo reale, alle informazioni e dall’altro alla possibilità di esporsi solamente a parte di esse, la fruizione di notizie da parte dei cittadini sta assistendo ad un declino nell’utilizzo dei media tradizionali come televisione e giornali, verso un sempre maggiore utilizzo dei nuovi media. In Italia questo fenomeno si sta diffondendo meno rapidamente che altrove, con una netta predominanza della televisione a dominare tuttora il consumo di notizie [AGCOM 2024]. Centrali in questo contesto sono le piattaforme, la cui stessa struttura prevede una diffusione di informazioni in linea con le idee e le credenze degli utenti e alla conseguente formazione di vere e proprie bolle informative; dall’altro lato, tuttavia, studi recenti hanno sottolineato come gli utenti dei social media possano essere esposti a una gamma diversificata di contenuti al di là della propria “bolla”, controbilanciando gli effetti della selettività delle notizie [Vaccari e Valeriani, 2021]. Nonostante un’offerta informativa estremamente ampia, la rapidità di diffusione delle notizie su internet, la disomogeneità e la superficialità delle stesse continuano a spingere verso una fruizione poco approfondita e un’informazione “condizionata, personalizzata, decontestualizzata e per giunta vincolata dai comportamenti pregressi degli utenti” [Pagnoncelli, 2019]. Un ulteriore fenomeno di news consumption che si relaziona alle affordances delle piattaforme online è l’esposizione accidentale alle notizie, che vengono proposte senza soluzione di continuità rispetto ai contenuti di intrattenimento, senza che l’utente scelga deliberatamente se entrarci in contatto; inoltre, il rapporto tra l'esposizione accidentale e l’engagement degli utenti con le notizie, varia a seconda della piattaforma di social media utilizzata, in base alle norme che guidano la pubblicazione e la diffusione dei contenuti. Diverse ricerche hanno evidenziato come il coinvolgimento nelle notizie accidentali sia maggiore negli utenti che hanno un basso interesse nell’informazione: questo è valido soprattutto per gli utenti più giovani [Fletcher and Kleis Nielsen 2018]. In letteratura si assiste ad un dibattito sugli effetti che questo tipo di informazione provoca sugli utenti: secondo Heiss e Matthes [2019], ad esempio, l’esposizione accidentale alle notizie politiche è potenzialmente in grado di rafforzare le lacune partecipative degli utenti che hanno scarso interesse nel tema; altre ricerche sottolineano invece come tale esposizione alle notizie possa contribuire a ridurre il gap di conoscenza che proviene da una selezione autonoma delle notizie, costituendo quindi un riscontro positivo per la partecipazione a temi caldi, tra cui ad esempio la politica [Valeriani and Vaccari, 2016; Prior, 2005]. Ad ogni modo, questi aspetti costituiscono indubbiamente una differenza significativa rispetto ai metodi di fruizione delle notizie in cui è l’utente a dedicare volontariamente tempo e, soprattutto attenzione, all’informazione. Alla luce della sempre maggiore commistione fra intrattenimento e informazione nella società dell’informazione piattaformizzata, questo paper si propone di esplorare attraverso diversi strumenti di analisi i modi in cui cittadini italiani si rapportano alle grandi aziende digitali che veicolano l'informazione. In primo luogo, utilizzando i dati ricavati da una survey su un campione rappresentativo della popolazione, realizzata nell’ambito del progetto V-Data [​​The value of digital data: enhancing citizens' awareness and voice about surveillance capitalism], abbiamo misurato il grado di fiducia degli utenti rispetto alle aziende digitali (GAFAM, vale a dire Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple e Microsoft) in comparazione con lo Stato, gli amici e i familiari, gli estranei e i datori di lavoro, ed esplorato gli atteggiamenti prevalenti fra i cittadini nei confronti dell’offerta proveniente dal mondo digitale, in termini di percezione di opportunità e di di rischio. A tal riguardo, una nostra precedente ricerca ha ad esempio mostrato come sui media mainstream l’utilizzo delle piattaforme digitali venga più spesso presentato in termini di rischi -in particolare per la privacy - che di opportunità. Nonostante si tratti di un tema non ancora ritenuto polarizzante, gli stessi indicatori di fiducia verso le piattaforme GAFAM sono stati somministrati anche nell’indagine Itanes 2022, il che ci ha consentito di esplorare anche se e in che modo essi siano legati agli atteggiamenti politici. In secondo luogo, il lavoro si propone di utilizzare i risultati ottenuti da alcune interviste qualitative, che hanno approfondito le modalità attraverso cui i giovani si rapportano all’informazione - anche dal punto di vista politico - attraverso le piattaforme online. L’esplorazione ha previsto l’analisi dello sviluppo delle abitudini di consumo dei contenuti social nei giovani tra i 18 e i 26 anni, con un focus specifico sugli incontri (accidentali o intenzionali) con notizie politicamente o socialmente rilevanti. Oltre a mappare i media e i social network utilizzati dagli intervistati, sono stati approfonditi i loro atteggiamenti dal punto di vista delle modalità di incontro dei contenuti, e delle conseguenze (sia per quanto riguarda il grado di approfondimento o di superficialità percepito rispetto alla notizia che la conseguente definizione di opinioni e partecipazione che ne deriva).
Politicultural Linking: Inferences between the Political and the Apolitical. A Literature Review
Gaetano Scaduto
Abstract
Politicultural Linking: Inferences between the Political and the Apolitical. A Literature Review Gaetano Scaduto, University of Milan-Bicocca, gaetano.scaduto@unimib.it Keywords: Political Stereotypes, Political Projection, Political Inferences Abstract: In the last few years, several scholars in the field of political communication, political psychology, and political sociology focused on the associations between political and apolitical traits (such as ones' ethnicity, moral priority, or consumption choices) within the public and their consequences (Busby et al., 2023; Carlson & Settle, 2022; Denning & Hodges, 2022; Hiaeshutter-Rice et al., 2023; Lee, 2021). These inferences have been proved to be especially consequential to convey political ideologies, partisanship, and issue positions without having to explicitate these. Yet, literature lacks conceptual and theoretical unity and has never been systematically organized to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of its findings. We fill these gaps through theoretical reflections and a comprehensive literature review. First, we introduce and discuss politicultural linking (PL), a novel concept subsuming political inferences from apolitical cues and apolitical inferences from political cues. Then, we review the available empirical studies classifying research dealing with PL through relevant categories, identifying gaps, and suggesting fruitful avenues for future research. This contribution is therefore divided into two main sections. First, the theoretical framework behind PL is introduced building toward its definition. After clearly stating what we indicate as “political” and “apolitical”, we define PL as the concept encapsulating both political inferences from apolitical cues (e.g. inferring one’s ideology from information about their race, gender, personality traits, or fashion choices) and apolitical inferences from political cues (e.g. inferring that a person who voted for a right-wing comes from a certain region, possess certain moral priorities, or a specific car model). Moreover, we discuss the possible sources of the associations underlying these inferences, namely observed correlations (Bordalo et al., 2016; Goldberg & Stein, 2018), media representations (Rahn & Cramer, 1996), and élites’ online and offline behaviors (Deichert, 2019). The second part of the work is focused on reviewing relevant recent empirical studies dealing with PL. We classified 44 studies published in the last 15 years in international journals dealing with political inferences from apolitical cues, apolitical inferences from political cues, or both, through seven categories, namely: the target of the inference (e.g. people, politicians, parties), the direction of the inference (from apolitical to political and vice versa), the political trait under consideration (e.g. ideology, partisanship, issue preferences, vote choices), the apolitical trait under consideration (e.g gender, income, sexual orientation, personality traits, preferences regarding leisure activities, food, music, or movies), the inferential strategy under considerations (e.g. projection, stereotyping, or both), the national context in which the study is conducted, and the empirical strategy employed. Through this classification, we identify gaps in this stream of literature and promising avenues for future research. Among these: the under-exploration of lifestyle preferences as the apolitical trait, the scarcity studies employing non-survey-based empirical strategies, and the lack of studies examing the consequences of this behavior in political communication and online environments. The contribution of this work is twofold. First, the introduction of the concept of PL offers scholars a novel tool for dealing with a growing stream of research. Second, our literature review pinpoints the strengths and weaknesses of studies on the topic and sets the agenda for political communication scholars interested in contributing to this stream of research. References: Bordalo, P., Coffman, K., Gennaioli, N., & Shleifer, A. (2016). Stereotypes*. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 131(4), 1753–1794. https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjw029 Busby, E. C., Howat, A. J., & Myers, C. D. (2023). Changing stereotypes of partisans in the Trump Era. Political Science Research and Methods, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2023.30 Carlson, T. N., & Settle, J. E. (2022). What Goes Without Saying. Cambridge University Press. Deichert, M. (2019). Partisan Cultural Stereotypes: The Effect of Everyday Partisan Associations on Social Life in the United States. Denning, K. R., & Hodges, S. D. (2022). When Polarization Triggers Out-Group “Counter-Projection” Across the Political Divide. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 48(4), 638–656. https://doi.org/10.1177/01461672211021211 Goldberg, A., & Stein, S. K. (2018). Beyond Social Contagion: Associative Diffusion and the Emergence of Cultural Variation. American Sociological Review, 83(5), 897–932. https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122418797576 Hiaeshutter-Rice, D., Neuner, F. G., & Soroka, S. (2023). Cued by Culture: Political Imagery and Partisan Evaluations. Political Behavior, 45(2), 741–759. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-021-09726-6 Lee, A. H.-Y. (2021). How the Politicization of Everyday Activities Affects the Public Sphere: The Effects of Partisan Stereotypes on Cross-Cutting Interactions. Political Communication, 38(5), 499–518. https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.2020.1799124 Rahn, W. M., & Cramer, K. J. (1996). Activation and application of political party stereotypes: The role of television. Political Communication, 13(2), 195–212. https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.1996.9963107
TikTok: la politica “Per Te”
Antonio Martella, Cristopher Cepernich
Abstract
Tra le principali novità introdotte da TikTok emerge la quasi completa irrilevanza che hanno le azioni dell’utente nella costruzione del flusso di contenuti. Fino a questo momento, infatti, visibilità e viralità dei contenuti si ancoravano principalmente alle pratiche di selezione e (ri)condivisione da parte di nicchie di utenti, una caratteristica fondamentale della network media logic (Klinger & Svensson, 2015) che distingueva in modo netto i “nuovi media” dai media tradizionali. Con TikTok, il flusso dei contenuti si sgancia quasi del tutto dai network di appartenenza costruito sulla base di relazioni e interessi selezionati dell’utente e si affida sempre più alla mediazione algoritmica nella determinazione di “chi vede cosa” (Martella & Cepernich, 2024). Lo sganciamento del flusso di contenuti dal network di following/follower ha come conseguenza diretta la perdita di importanza della popolarità online/offline e la cura del singolo contenuto diventa più necessaria che mai (Martella & Cepernich, 2024). Conseguentemente, l’autorevolezza all’interno della piattaforma si costruisce quasi da zero attraverso una produzione costante che deve confrontarsi con nuovi formati, generi e attori che acquisiscono maggiore rilevanza poiché più aderenti a interessi e pubblici determinati algoritmicamente (García-Ortega & García-Avilés, 2023; Newman, 2022). Anche per la politica, quindi, si riconfigurano ulteriormente i processi di accreditamento delle fonti informative che nell’ambito della network media logic vedevano riconosciuta, almeno in parte, la propria autorevolezza e popolarità sia offline che online. Le caratteristiche culturali e tecnologiche di TikTok si riflettono necessariamente sulla comunicazione politica e sui principali attori (Quevedo-Redondo & Gómez-García, 2023; Zamora Medina, 2023) che devono intercettare la logica algoritmica di fondo per ambire a diventare visibili e rilevanti. In questi ambienti mediali content driven, non solo si assiste all’emergere di nuovi attori e soggetti, come già osservato nelle altre piattaforme (Bracciale et al., 2018), ma la predominanza algoritmica nella selezione dei contenuti sembra imporre sempre più il ricorso a pratiche di micro-celebrity (Marwick, 2016) che prevedono il rivolgersi a delle comunità (di gusti) individuate algoritmicamente, con i codici e le regole che le caratterizzano, piuttosto che a audience identificate astrattamente (Senft, 2013). L’adozione della piattaforma risulta sempre più fondamentale per diverse ragioni: 1) la capacità di reach ed engagement di gran lunga superiore alle altre piattaforme (Salazar, 2023); 2) il raggiungimento di audience giovani e poco interessate alla politica (Newman, 2022); e 3) la valutazione da parte dei media e del potenziale elettorato (Moir, 2023). Domande di ricerca In questo quadro, le elezioni politiche del 2022 hanno rappresentato la prima campagna elettorale su TikTok, la gran parte degli attori politici ha attivato il proprio account sulla piattaforma proprio nel mese precedente alla data del voto (25 settembre 2022). RQ1. Quali sono stati gli attori più influenti ed efficaci nel dibattito sulle elezioni politiche del 2022 su TikTok? RQ2. Quali sono state le tematiche più affrontate dai soggetti maggiormente efficaci sulla piattaforma? Metodologia Sono stati raccolti 14.308 video prodotti dal 1 settembre 2020 al 25 settembre 2020 (inclusi) attraverso le Research API di TikTok. I post sono stati individuati attraverso due criteri: 1) lingua italiana e 2) presenza di almeno una delle seguenti parole chiave o hashtag: elezioni italiane 2022, elezioni, elezioni2022, elezionipolitiche, elezionipolitiche2022, politica, elezioniitaliane, politiche2022. In totale sono stati analizzati 390 profili che hanno prodotto 2431 video di cui 619 hanno superato le 100mila visualizzazioni. A partire da studi precedenti (Bracciale et al., 2018) i profili degli utenti sono stati classificati in categorie di attori quali: celebrities, citizens, media, etc. Il numero di follower e di visualizzazioni è stato classificato in categorie quali: Mega influencer, Macro influencer, Micro influencer, etc. (Ruiz-Gomez, 2019). Per analizzare l’efficacia dei diversi attori sulla piattaforma è stata analizzata la distribuzione delle visualizzazioni dei video prodotti dagli account selezionati. Per l’analisi dei temi sono stati analizzati i 50 hashtag più frequenti adottati da ciascuna categoria di attori. Risultati Dall’analisi preliminare sui dati emerge la rilevante presenza di cittadini comuni tra i creator più popolari nel dibattito elettorale del 2022 (RQ1). Oltre alle social media celebrities, tra i soggetti più popolari emergono anche personaggi della società civile (associazioni, professionisti, etc.). Media e Politica si situano soprattutto nella fascia dei Micro Influencers. Relativamente all’efficacia (RQ1), Celebrities (offline e social media) e Civil Society risultano gli attori maggiormente in grado di sfondare la soglia del milione di visualizzazioni (in percentuale rispetto al numero di video prodotti). La maggior parte dei video prodotti da media e politica, invece, ricade in una fascia di influenza medio alta (il 43% dei video dei media riceve dalle 10mila alle 100mila visualizzazioni), o media (il 42% dei video della politica riceve da 1000 a 10mila visualizzazioni). Sopra il milione di visualizzazioni e tra 500mila e 1 milione, cittadini e politica mostrano la presenza più consistente: oltre il 41% dei video sopra il milione e sopra le 500mila visualizzazioni sono prodotti da cittadini, il 20% dei video sopra il milione e il 15% dei video sopra le 500mila visualizzazioni sono invece prodotti dalla politica. Dall’analisi degli hashtag più diffusi (RQ2), emerge una certa autoreferenzialità da parte della politica con hashtag autoriferiti che si rispecchia anche nel racconto mediatico. I temi prevalgono soprattutto nella produzione della società civile.
Transnational Populist Publics in Europe and the United States
Francesco Vittonetto
Abstract
Parties and leaders of the populist radical right (PRR) increasingly cooperate with one another internationally to oppose liberal democracy. Linked to this, they have constructed a shared discourse and identity across countries around issues like immigration or ‘culture wars’, and framed the people to which they appeal as a transnational entity. However, little is known about how PRR followers participate in these transnational dynamics. This paper looks at online active publics of PRR parties, i.e. those individuals who engage with, and support, these parties on social media. It addresses the research question: Are the online publics of different PRR parties converging towards similar frames over time? The paper provides insights into the emergence of transnational nationalist publics on the global public spheres. Specifically, it employs quantitative text analysis of social media data to compare the active publics of three diverse PRR cases: Brothers of Italy, National Rally (France), and the Republican Party (United States). By using both structural topic models and similarity tests on a dataset of YouTube and Facebook comments, the paper seeks to uncover latent topics and frames, track their evolution, and their level of similarity over time.
 

Panel 4.7 Disinformation narratives during 2024 EP elections


Ahead of the 2024 European Parliament elections, the European Union and its member states have set priorities to combat disinformation, foreign interference and extremism. The main concerns are that European citizens' votes will be influenced by false information and that election campaigns will become aggressive and hostile towards the EU, undermining democratic standards of fair elections. At the same time, the EU has taken substantial measures to address the challenge of disinformation, including a set of rules to protect the integrity of elections, the European Democracy Action Plan, the Action Plan against Disinformation and the European Media Freedom Act. At this point, it is important to understand not only how disinformation became salient during the EP elections, where it originated and how it was spread across different platforms, but also how the issue itself was put on the agenda and framed as an existential threat to EU democracy. We therefore invite for contributions that analyse the politicisation of the disinformation challenge during EP elections. This might include an analysis of the regulatory framework of the EU and its controversial implementation by the member states, the official communication strategies of EU institutions through various online and offline channels and including different target groups, or the campaigns of political parties and candidates, including their targeted communications with the voters through various communication channels.
The panel welcomes contributions on one or more of the following topics
- The implementation of the EU framework to combat disinformation and the role of national governments
- The role of media and journalism as fact-checkers in EP elections
- The manifestos of the EP political groups and the campaigns of their Spitzenkandidaten
- The campaigns of EP candidates and their communication through different online and offline media channels.

Chairs: Rossana Sampugnaro, Hans Joerg Trenz

Discussants: Alberta Giorgi

Disinformazione, Partiti europei e Spitzenkandidaten
Patrizia Santoro, Rossana Sampugnaro, Hans-Jörg Trenz
Abstract
Negli ultimi anni, anche grazie alla pandemia da Covid-19, il fenomeno della disinformazione ha acquisito maggiore visibilità nel dibattito pubblico, costituendo oggi una sfida ancor più significativa. Trovando nell’ecosistema digitale il proprio habitat naturale, la disinformazione – generalmente intesa come processo volontario di alterazione della corrispondenza tra i fatti e la loro descrizione – cresce sempre più sensibilmente, interferendo con sempre maggiori probabilità sui processi politici e sulla fiducia nelle istituzioni. Le preoccupazioni su di essa hanno attivato da tempo interventi su più versanti (dalle regolamentazione e normative specifiche per promuovere la trasparenza e l’accuratezza delle informazioni online, agli strumenti e politiche per identificare e rimuovere la disinformazione, alla promozione di giornalismo di qualità e di verifiche indipendenti delle informazioni) sia da parte delle istituzioni sia della società civile con l’obiettivo principale di promuovere la “verità” e l’accuratezza delle informazioni online. Tuttavia, la velocità e la quantità dei flussi informativi, la frammentazione della comunicazione digitale e la personalizzazione dei contenuti rende difficile il controllo della disinformazione. Dinnanzi a ciò, l’Unione europea ha recentemente adottato misure di prevenzione e contrasto che – tramite il nuovo codice di pratiche di disinformazione e il Digital Service Act (DSA) – seguono una strategia di sovranità digitale. Ovvero, di imposizioni di forme di controllo e di influenza sulla responsabilità e sul potere organizzativo delle tech corporations: il tentativo è quello di regolare il potere privato delle piattaforme online, in modo da assicurare ai cittadini europei la loro libertà di espressione e di informazione. Sembrerebbe, però, che vi siano già delle violazioni del Digital Services Act da parte di alcune Big Tech che mostrano una loro tendenziale sottrazione alla responsabilità nel contrastare la disinformazione, soprattutto in momento delicato come quello attuale segnato da imminenti elezioni politiche e guerre. Cruciale è dunque mantener alta l’attenzione sulla disinformazione e stimolare lo sviluppo di una più ampia consapevolezza sui suoi rischi attraverso il dibattito nelle arene pubbliche. In questo scenario, la ricerca che qui presentiamo vuole cogliere la sensibilità dei partiti politici e dei loro candidati alle elezioni europee rispetto al dibattito sulla disinformazione, utilizzando come campo di indagine le loro campagne elettorali per l’elezione del parlamento europeo. In particolare, ci rivolgiamo ai partiti europei e ai loro Spitzenkandidaten, analizzando come e quanto la issue sulla disinformazione viene discussa e trattata nelle loro campagne elettorali. Data l’imminenza dell’evento elettorale, la ricerca sarà di tipo esplorativo e utilizzerà l’analisi del contenuto di tutti i tweed pubblicati su X dal 6 Maggio al 6 Giugno 2024, individuando possibili strategie comunicative – legate allo stile e al frame dei tweet – messe in campo per evidenziare criticità o punti di forza riguardo le politiche di contrasto alla disinformazione in rete.
Does the quality of media diets influence individuals’ truth discernment?
Mario Quaranta, Alessandra Malorgio, Moreno Mancosu, Fabio Torreggiani
Abstract
The role of information (and its quality) has always been a focal point in research on political behaviour and public opinion. Previous findings show that better (or more frequently) informed citizens have a better understanding of democratic choices and are more involved in politics. With the spread of fake news on the internet, information becomes an even more relevant element to be taken into account. Therefore, evaluating the ability citizens have to discern true news from false information is crucial for the understanding of how they can act consciously in the democratic arena. In particular, little research explored how the quality of individuals' news consumption influences their truth discernment. In this article, we focus on the role of news media diets’ reliability and political congruence on individuals’ ability to distinguish reliable from fake news, other than the potential interaction between these two variables. Past literature on the illusory truth effect shows that individuals repeatedly exposed to false information are more prone to believe in it. In addition, proponents of motivated reasoning argue that individuals are more inclined to believe in information that confirms their pre-existing political or cultural ideas. Consequently, we expect individuals with a less reliable and/or more politically congruent media diet to be less able to judge news’ reliability. Using a two-wave longitudinal survey of Italian individuals during the 2024 European Elections, we gather data about participants’ stated media diet and their ability in judging a random sample of social media posts either containing false information or not. In addition, we monitor participants’ observed browsing activity and media consumption of tv, radio and newspaper during the two survey waves. This article contributes to the understanding of misinformation perception by gathering observational and fine-grained data about individuals’ media diets. We thus shed light on the little explored relation between echo chambers and truth discernment.
The politicisation of the European Digital Strategy in the EP electoral campaigns 2024
Silvia Keeling, Giuliana Sorci
Abstract
Democratic societies depend on the ability of citizens to access a variety of verifiable information so that they can form a view on different political issues. However, as of the events of 2016, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine and Palestine, the democratic processes are increasingly challenged by deliberate, large-scale, and systematic spread of disinformation in the European context and beyond. Disinformation campaigns promoted by third countries (Russia, China, and Iran) are increasingly deploying to influence societal debates, radicalize political positions and interfere in democratic decision-making. Social media platforms have been pinpinted as important means for the spread of disinformation, especially with the aim of influencing the election results. Concerns around the risk of information manipulation are hence particularly high in the upcoming 2024 European Parliament elections. Adding to this is the issue of Artificial intelligence: on October 20, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) envisaged potential disruption by artificial intelligence in disseminating disinformation by means of innovative tools, such as deep fake videos that could alter election campaigns and information conveyed by parties and candidates during electoral competitions. To tackle disinformation, safeguard journalists and the quality of news circulating both on digital platforms and legacy media, ultimately preserving the democratic public sphere, the European Union has set out a digital strategy – that is, a series of policies and regulatory acts, which include the European Media Freedom Act, the Digital Service Act and the EU AI Act. In this contribution, we propose a research design to account for the development and politicisation of the EU digital strategy. Taking as a case study the European Parliament Election campaign, we will look at whether the issue of disinformation is addressed in the agenda setting of MEP candidates and of national and European political parties, and if so, how is the issue challenged and framed by different actors. Specifically, we will answer the following research questions: how is the EU digital strategy - and more specifically, the EU Digital Service Act and the EU AI Act - framed in terms of a challenge to democracy in the party manifestos of the main national and European political parties in the run for the European Parliament elections? How and by whom is the EU digital strategy politicized during the EP election campaign? And finally, are there ideological cleavages in approaching the digitalization challenges to democracy or are there attempts to define a European common strategy to combact disinformation and ensure quality of journalism and information? The empirical analysis includes the following stages. First, we will conduct a European party manifesto analysis to focus on diagnostic and prognostic issue framing and proposed actions. Second, we will follow the online debate revolving around the EU digital strategy of MEP candidates of the relevant national parties and European groups. To this end, we will conduct a live feed of X and Instagram, registering all material posted in the month prior to the EU 2024 elections. MEP candidates were selected according to their degree of expertise and/or involvement in the setting of the EU digital strategy. As for national parties, we chose to follow the Italian debate developing across the main political parties (Fratelli d’Italia; Partito Democratico; Movimento 5 Stelle; Italia Viva; Lega Salvini; Forza Italia). Aditionally, so as to grasp the European debate, we opted to follow the feed of the main Spitzenkandidaten and that of their supporting European parties. The data collection will be followed by a qualitative media content analysis in order to analyse how much and in which ways the EU digital agenda is debated/approved or contested during 2024 European parliament electoral campaigns.
Towards the European elections: new social media and misinformation in electoral campaigns
Francesca Montemagno, Valentina Fiscella
Abstract
La nascita di internet e di tecnologie legate al web ha prodotto trasformazioni sia nei modelli di consumo sia nella produzione e diffusione delle notizie. Il ciclo produttivo dell’informazione diventa più breve e con esso anche il tempo dedicato alla verifica dei fatti e all'attendibilità delle fonti. Ma mentre i costi di produzione dell’informazione tradizionale restano elevati (in termini di costi di redazione), i costi relativi alla riproduzione e distribuzione, grazie alla digitalizzazione, si sono notevolmente ridotti. La conseguenza è un aumento esponenziale dei flussi di informazione provenienti da diversi soggetti attivi (e tra questi anche i soggetti politici) che offrono informazione tramite il proprio sito, il proprio blog e i propri social network (c.d. influencer) riuscendo a veicolare notizie e commenti sull’attualità. Si verifica in questo modo, un flusso continuo di informazioni proveniente da fonti diverse, eterogenee e in diverse forme che porta ad un abbassamento del grado di attenzione con una conseguente maggiore vulnerabilità alle fake news. Le fake news, in termini generali, sono notizie create con l’obiettivo di distorcere la realtà, ma che non sono sempre del tutto false. I contenuti veicolati e considerati come notizie false, presentano diversi livelli di criticità: notizie vere ma manipolate in maniera artefatta; notizie non sottoposte alla verifica dei fatti/fonti; notizie parzialmente corrette ma che utilizzano titoli a scopo di clickbaiting (ossia acchiappa click); notizie fuori contesto (ad es. la satira percepita come fatto reale). L’insieme di queste notizie porta a una sorta di “inquinamento delle informazioni” (o disordine informativo). Si fa quindi, una distinzione tra: disinformazione quando si è in presenza di un contenuto creato deliberatamente allo scopo di creare danno, motivato dal fatto di fare soldi o esercitare influenza politica; misinformazione che si crea quando le informazioni false sono veicolate senza l’intenzione di danneggiare; mala informazione (o cattiva informazione) che si verifica quando una notizia autentica è veicolata con l'intenzione di danneggiare un gruppo o una persona (c.d. fuga di notizie). Ma cosa succede se a fare informazione sono proprio i partiti e loro leader? Quanta e quale disinformazione passa attraverso i loro canali social? Contribuiscono in qualche maniera ad alimentare il disordine informativo? L’information disorder ostacola il dibattito pubblico e spesso è utilizzata in campagna elettorale per condizionare le scelte degli elettori, creando falsi problemi e dando soluzioni inutili a questioni che non esistono. In questo quadro appare interessante capire quale tipo di messaggi i partiti e i loro leader decidono di veicolare, e se questi a loro volta producono o supportano un'informazione corretta, se sono veicoli di disinformazione o di mala-informazione. La ricerca, attualmente in corso, ha lo scopo di analizzare - in una fase pre-elettorale caratterizzata dalla definizione delle candidature alle prossime europee (Marzo/Aprile 2024) - i canali Telegram e Whatsapp dei principali protagonisti della campagna elettorale in Italia. Ci proponiamo pertanto di monitorare i canali di una selezione di partiti (Forza Italia; Fratelli d’Italia; Italia viva; Lega; Movimento 5 stelle; Partito Democratico) e dei loro rispettivi leader. Per essere raggiunto dalle notizie, in questa nuova ed innovativa tipologia di social, l’utente deve scegliere di seguire il canale di suo interesse: siamo in presenza di un segmento di elettorato selezionato e non di tipo generalista come quello di Facebook dove il fruitore può entrare in contatto con informazioni su soggetti politici distanti dal suo profilo, nonostante la presenza di algoritmi spinga verso l’omogeneità. L’intenzione è quella di monitorare le notizie veicolate dagli attori politici e le reaction degli utenti a quest’ultime. L'obiettivo sarà quello di porre in luce modelli di utilizzo, peculiarità tematiche e differenze. Bibliografia AGCOM, Le strategie di disinformazione online e la filiera dei contenuti fake, www.agcom.it/tavolo-pluralismo-e-piattaforme-online Coltelli M. (2019), Urso N. Fake news. Come riconoscere e come imparare a riconoscere le notizie false. Firenze, Franco Cesati Editore Desideri P., (1984), Teoria e prassi del discorso politico. Strategie persuasive e percorsi comunicativi, Bulzoni editore, Roma. First Draft, (2020) Guida essenziale per COMPRENDERE IL DISORDINE INFORMATIVO, First Draft. Fogg, B. J. (2005) Tecnologia della Persuasione. Un’introduzione alla captologia, la disciplina che studia l’uso dei computer per influenzare idee e comportamenti, Apogeo Education e Maggioli Editore. Gili, G. & Maddalena, G., (2018) Post-Verità e Fake News: Radici, Significati Attuali, Inattesi Protagonisti E Probabili Vittime, Media Education. Maisto, A. (2020-2021), Il fenomeno delle fake news e la loro diffusione durante la pandemia da SARS-CoV-2, Torino. Mezzanotte, M. (2018) Fake news nelle campagne elettorali digitali. Vecchi rimedi o nuove regole?, federalismi.it. Pagliaro, P., (2017), Punto. Fermiamo il declino dell’informazione, Bologna, Il Mulino. Riva, G. (2018), Fake news: Vivere e sopravvivere in un mondo post-verità, Il Mulino. Sbisà, M. (2007) Detto non detto. Le forme della comunicazione implicita, Laterza, Roma - Bari. Silvestro, E. (2018) Smascheriamo le fake news imparando a leggerle in: Alice Lokar, Stefano Ondelli, Fabio Romanini, Elia Silvestro, "Credibile ma falso. Come riconoscere le fake news (quasi senza leggerle)", Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2018, pp. 43-61.
 

Panel 4.8 Beyond fact-checking: New research approaches to combat misinformation in political communication


In recent years, political communication has been plagued by misinformation, ranging from propaganda on national and international issues such as the war in Ukraine to questionable theories on scientific topics such as the COVID pandemic and climate change. Misinformation spreads on multiple levels, from informal networks to social media to traditional media, making it difficult to counteract in traditional ways through fact-checking and debunking for a variety of reasons. Journalists and media organizations have limited resources to detect and investigate misinformation. They risk fueling the spread of fake news, conspiracy theories and other forms of misinformation instead of fighting it. Politicians and experts struggle to control the flow of misinformation and sometimes fall for it when it serves their own ends. Finally, there is a growing body of research suggesting that citizens often lack the knowledge and cognitive resources to recognize and correct misinformation when they encounter it, and are sometimes motivated to believe and propagate it in order to confirm their political identity and worldview. Therefore, other strategies are needed to address the problem of misinformation. This involves moving beyond the traditional top-down model of information flow in political communication and instead exploring new ways for political actors, journalists and citizens to navigate the current information environment. The aim of this panel is to gather theoretical and empirical research that addresses new strategies and approaches to deal with this problem and provide new insights, new methods and new directions for policy in this area.
We look forward to contributions that approach the issue of misinformation and its possible solutions from an interdisciplinary point of view, in particular focusing on:
• the drivers of citizens’ belief in misinformation
• communication formats and practices associated with the spread of misinformation
• individual and group interventions aimed at raising citizens’ awareness of misinformation
• debunking and prebunking interventions
• institutional and journalistic initiatives aimed at tackling misinformation

Chairs: Mauro Bertolotti

Discussants: Moreno Mancosu

Don’t be Fooled by Fake News? Mapping the Social, Cognitive, and Political Mechanisms of Misinformation Beliefs
Fabio Torreggiani, Aron Szekely
Abstract
Fake news, which can be defined as false information that is purposely spread to deceive people (Lazer et al., 2018), has become particularly important in recent years due to the increasingly harmful and widespread role that it plays in social and political life (Kata, 2010; Lazer et al., 2018). The existing literature, although quite recent, already proposed two main cognitive explanations to misinformation beliefs: lack of analytical thinking (Pennycook & Rand, 2019) and motivated reasoning (Kahan, 2017). Despite this increasing academic production, much of this existing work focuses on experiments that test whether treatments (e.g. adding information such as including a warning message) can reduce people’s beliefs in and sharing of fake news (Capraro & Celadin, 2022; Pennycook & Rand, 2022). Fundamental descriptive work instead, identifying the mechanisms determining whether people believe or not fake news, is rarely pursued. Furthermore, apart from what has been done in the cognitive literature (Faragó, Kende, & Krekó, 2020; Pennycook & Rand, 2021), other mechanisms have been received much less attention. There is another important limitation in the existing work. Many quantitative research studies on fake news test participants’ perception on artificial (statements written by authors) (Arechar et al., 2022) or semi-artificial stimuli, rather than on existing pieces of information. Our study aims to contribute to filling these gaps by achieving three objectives: 1. Select and validate a new dataset of diverse real social media news posts containing fake news and reliable news. 2. Identify key mechanisms influencing how people (mis)perceive the credibility of fake news with a particular focus on social and political mechanisms. 3. Test whether a social priming message can shape fake news perception. In our research, we aim to investigate the role of five different explanations of misinformation perception. Firstly, we gather confirmatory evidences on the role of cognitive styles and motivated reasoning. In addition, we explore the role of three relatively underexplored social mechanisms: anti-elitism, institutional trust and social norms. According to the first explanation, we argue that people fall for fake news because they do not trust political, mediatic and scientific institutions and they thus search for “alternative” sources to gather their information about the world (see Stier, Kirkizh, Froio, & Schroeder, 2020 for some evidences in this direction). Moreover, building on the partially substantiated assumption that fake news frequently portrays the elite as corrupt rather than benevolent (Baptista & Gradim, 2022; Mourão & Robertson, 2019), individuals endorsing anti-elitist views may exhibit a greater propensity to believe in fake news due to motivated reasoning. This is because they may interpret such news as aligning with their preexisting beliefs. Social norms are behavioural rules, prescribing or proscribing specific actions, that are followed due to reciprocal social expectations (Bicchieri, 2006). According to our social norm explanation of fake news beliefs, we argue that the cognitive effort put by people in interacting with news depends on their perception of what other people do and what other people think it is appropriate to do when reading and sharing news online. To test our primary hypotheses, we conducted a survey experiment on a quota sample of 1200 US participants. This survey featured sets of questions designed to measure cognitive effort, political affiliation, anti-elitism, institutional trust and social norms, in addition to control variables. The dependent variable was assessed by asking participants to evaluate the accuracy of 10 randomly selected posts from the validated dataset. During the accuracy task, participants were exposed to a treatment message that either emphasized the presence or the absence of an accuracy social norm. The assignment to these treatment groups was randomized. To validate the posts used in the accuracy task, we conducted a validation study on a convenience sample of 600 US participants. Firstly, our analysis revealed that social media news posts in both national datasets were perceived similarly. The items within each dataset were comparable, showing no outliers. This reaffirms the validity of our dataset and the effectiveness of using a stimuli creation process based on random sampling from real-life social media posts. We found confirmatory evidence on the role of cognitive styles. Motivated reasoning, on the contrary, emerged as a marginal explanation of truth discernment, potentially because participants judged many of the collected posts as politically neutral. For what regards the role of social drivers, we find that trust in universities is positively linked with higher truth discernment, while the opposite is true for other institutions, especially trust in social media. Individual motivations to accuracy are linked with higher truth discernment, while the role of social expectations is null. The social priming gave mixed results. In conclusion, we testify to the importance of using more realistic stimuli selection in experimental research on misinformation; and we show that cognitive drivers, although determinant, cannot be considered the sole determinants for misinformation beliefs.
Artificial Deception? The mitigating role of social media use and ‘tech-savvyness’ on perceived threats of Generative AI misinformation
Mauro Barisione, Ilir Rama, Francesco Marolla
Abstract
In the digital realm, individuals are increasingly susceptible to fabricated content and fake news. The recent surge in Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) — a type of AI capable of generating new data in forms such as text, visuals, and audio — has revolutionized communication mediums by radically transforming the content creation process. While these advancements have enhanced creative capabilities, they also pose unprecedented challenges to information integrity, potentially influencing democratic processes such as elections by facilitating the spread of misinformation and fabricated content. These risks are magnified by the expansive reach of social media platforms, which enable rapid dissemination of content to vast audiences. Given GenAI’s ability to produce content that can be nearly indistinguishable from human-created content (Groh et al., 2022; Longoni et al., 2022) and the propensity of social media to accelerate the spread of misinformation during crises (Ceron et al., 2021), it is crucial to examine public opinion’s perception of the risks associated with GenAI deception. A burgeoning literature explores the interplay between GenAI and political misinformation (e.g., Kreps et al., 2022; Xu et al., 2023; Risse, 2023). Despite this growing interest, scholars are divided on the connection between GenAI and political misinformation. On the one hand, concerns that GenAI could exacerbate misinformation dynamics are considered “overblown” (Simon et al., 2023). On the other hand, it is argued that AI-generated misinformation continues to challenge established norms regarding integrity of information (Zhou et al., 2023), thereby posing threats to democratic stability (Jungherr, 2023). However, a significant gap remains in the literature regarding public perceptions of the risks associated with being misinformed by GenAI-generated content. Without empirical insights into public opinion’s awareness of these risks, we lack a crucial understanding of how such technology impacts citizenship and thus democracies In this paper, we use data from an online survey conducted in Italy in October 2023, involving c/a 1800 respondents from the general public and incorporating a novel experiment featuring AI-generated political images. First, we constructed an index to gauge citizens’ perception of the risks associated with generative artificial intelligence within the digital information landscape. This index, which we term the GenAI Deception Index, is derived from responses to survey questions on three key aspects: the perceived capability of GenAI to disseminate convincing false information online, blur the distinction between genuine events and fabricated content, and provide inaccurate or fabricated responses. Second, we investigated whether extensive use of social media and knowledge of generative AI tools heighten citizens’ awareness of these potential dangers or, conversely, fosters a heightened familiarity with algorithm-based digital technologies, creating a form of ‘vaccination’ against such apprehensions. Third, we conducted a survey experiment to examine whether exposure to a curated set of visual content related to contentious political communication topics—some of which are generated by GenAI tools—results in an increase in the average scores of the GenAI Deception Index, thereby heightening risk perception of misinformation. Our findings indicate that extensive social media use and familiarity with GenAI reduce fears of misinformation by lowering perceived risks. Additionally, the survey experiment reveals that exposure to AI-generated content significantly increases risk perception, especially among less tech-savvy groups, while those more adept at discerning fabricated images are unaffected by treatment. We interpret these findings as reflecting social variations in risk sensitivity and sense of agency, associated with different levels of familiarity and awareness of digital technologies. These insights offer valuable understanding of public attitudes towards GenAI and highlight areas for future research. Key words: Generative AI Misinformation, Social Media, Online Survey Experiment
Challenges and Opportunities for Italian Journalism in an Age of Disinformation
Jacopo Custodi, Hans-Joerg Trenz
Abstract
In recent years, disinformation has become a highly contentious topic in Western societies. While it remains debatable whether it represents a new issue or heightened awareness of an existing one, it is indisputable that contemporary democratic competition and pluralism face significant challenges from false content and low-quality news coverage. Existing literature has frequently focused on the vehicles of these contents, primarily social media platforms; the legislative framework, as evidenced by recent European regulations; and the normative aspects of the issue, such as debates on changes in the public sphere. However, these analyses often omit a thorough empirical examination of the phenomenon within journalism itself. How does traditional journalism confront the challenges posed by post-truth phenomena? To answer this question, this paper centres its empirical focus on the Italian context through nine in-depth semi-structured interviews conducted between late 2023 and early 2024 with professional journalists from prominent Italian newspapers. By empirically investigating the post-truth challenge from this under-examined perspective, this study sheds new light on how mis/disinformation impacts Italian journalists, complicating their work while also creating opportunities for high-quality journalism. Furthermore, the selection of journalists from different publications, representing a range of political profiles and business models, allows for a deeper analysis by considering the differences between types of outlets. Finally, the analysis provides insights into effective countermeasures against mis/disinformation that could be adopted within journalism. This research has been funded by, and conducted through, the Horizon Europe project RECLAIM (https://reclaim.hi.is/en/).
Countering Conspiracy Beliefs: The Role of Prebunking Strategies
Mauro Bertolotti, Alice Pirovano, Patrizia Catellani, Pierangelo Isernia, Luciana Fazio, Francesco Neri, Adriano Scoccia
Abstract
The spread of fake news and conspiracy theories in public opinion has significantly intensified in recent years, increasingly affecting the social and political landscape of Western democracies (Oliver & Wood, 2014), and fostering distrust in political institutions (Einstein and Glick, 2015). Research on how this phenomenon can be contrasted has been growing, so far mainly focusing on “debunking” strategies, although their effectiveness has been questioned in several respects. More recently, an alternative pre-emptive strategy known as “prebunking” has been proposed (Banas & Miller, 2013; Bertolotti & Catellani, 2023; Lewandowsky & van der Linden, 2021). This approach is based on the idea of making people aware of misinformation and providing the necessary knowledge to recognize dubious and misleading information. To expand knowledge on this, we explored the effectiveness of three different prebunking strategies: factual prebunking, counterfactual prebunking, and meta-cognitive prebunking. Factual prebunking involves providing individuals with verified and valid facts to evaluate the veracity of later persuasive content. Counterfactual prebunking is based on the creation of hypothetical scenarios, in which certain elements of conspiracy theories and misinformation are mentally simulated in order to test their plausibility. Finally, meta-cognitive prebunking does not target facts (or their hypothetical alternatives), but rather aims to make individuals aware of possible cognitive traps or distortions associated with belief in conspiracy theories and fake news, thereby preventing them from falling into them. We conducted two studies with large, representative samples of Italian citizens, testing the effects of these three prebunking strategies on participants’ ability to detect fake news on three topics: climate change, the war in Ukraine, and vaccines. In the first study, we presented participants with a short prebunking message (or no message, in the control condition) prior to exposing them to a series of news headlines (true or false) on the aforementioned topics. Subsequently, we measured the participants' ability to discriminate between true and false news, their perceived plausibility, and a series of online sharing behaviors (liking, commenting, sharing, etc.). In the second study the experimentally manipulated prebunking interventions (a series of five messages) was delivered daily to participants via a smartphone app, and their ability to identify fake news, the perceived plausibility, and the likelihood of liking and sharing the news were later assessed. We hypothesized that counterfactual prebunking and meta-cognitive prebunking are more effective than factual prebunking in countering misinformation, thanks to two different mechanisms. Counterfactual messages might prompt individuals to evaluate news using the same type of reasoning underlying conspiracy theories, making them familiar with it and promoting their ability to deconstruct it when they are exposed to actual misinformation and conspiratorial content. Messages eliciting meta-cognitive awareness, on the other hand, might draw individuals’ attention on their own biases, making them more cautious in evaluating news content in general. We expect the effects of counterfactual and meta-cognitive prebunking to be partly moderated by individual factors, such as need for cognition, need for cognitive closure, bullshit receptivity, and conspiracy mentality, as well as differences in political attitudes and preexisting attitudes and beliefs on the presented topics. We discuss the potential and limitations of these prebunking strategies, and their application in political communication at different levels, from institutional campaigns, to journalistic content, to peer-to-peer interactions among users of social media platforms.
The role of “News-Finds-Me” Perception, Political Knowledge, and Ideological Extremism in Misinformation Sharing Practices
Augusto Valeriani, Laura Iannelli, Giada Marino
Abstract
On social media (SM) and instant messaging services (IMs), the risk of encountering false news has increased due to news fragmentation, secondary gatekeeping, and algorithmic-driven information. Understanding why users share fake news on these platforms is crucial. This study investigates the individual-level drivers of unintentional fake news sharing on SM and IMs, using survey data collected from a sample of Italian adults in January 2023. The study examined the effects of news-finds-me perception (NFMP) and political knowledge (PK) on misinformation sharing behaviors, and the interaction of ideological extremism with NFMP and PK in influencing these behaviors. Findings reveal that NFMP individuals are more likely to share misinformation on SM/IMs, while those with higher PK are less likely to do so. NFMP's influence on misinformation sharing is consistent across ideological positions, while PK interacts differently with ideological extremism: for far-left individuals, it strengthens the “protective effect” against the misinformation sharing, while for right-wing extremists it does not discourage it. The study extends the theoretical foundation of NFMP and tests the effect of various types of PK during a relative “peace time”. Additionally, it stands out for examining NFMP and PK simultaneously, offering a comprehensive understanding of their relative effects on misinformation sharing. Finally, it highlights the importance of a nuanced understanding of ideology in shaping misinformation sharing and suggests that future research should further explore the psychological and sociological differences between high-knowledge far-right and far-left individuals.The implications of the study extend to practical interventions aimed at combating online misinformation.
The use of Artificial Intelligence in counter-disinformation: a world wide (web) mapping
Federico Pilati
Abstract
Disinformation and “fake news” have become major sources of real threats and moral panic in the digital era. The proliferation of digital media and social networks sites has enabled the rapid spread of problematic information, and traditional approaches to media regulation and censorship seem no longer sufficient to address this challenge. Governments, organizations, and individuals are haunted by the idea of finding ways to combat this problem, and Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly being seen as an appealing tool in this fight. AI has indeed the potential to automate the identification of false or misleading information, which can then be flagged or removed before it can spread widely. However, despite the potential benefits of using AI in the fight against disinformation, there have also been several failures and problems associated with these efforts. One major challenge is the ability of disinformation actors to adapt their tactics and stay ahead of AI-powered detection tools. Additionally, serious concerns exist about the potential for bias and errors in AI algorithms and their use resulting in forms of algorithmic surveillance and censorship. Despite these challenges, the development of AI-powered tools and strategies to combat disinformation continues to be an active area of research and innovation. Organizations such as the European Union and the United Nations have launched initiatives to support the development of AI-powered fact-checking tools, while private companies like Meta and Google have invested in AI to help identify and remove false content from their platforms. Fact-checking initiatives have also emerged as a critical player in the fight against disinformation, providing a valuable service to citizens and journalists alike. Many of these initiatives rely on AI to quickly identify and analyze large volumes of information and, in many cases, also develop their own AI-powered tools to enhance their fact-checking capabilities. As examples, Full Fact, a non-profit fact-checking organization, has developed a review system that uses AI to identify claims made in political speeches and news articles and verify their accuracy. Similarly, NewsGuard, a US-based company, has launched a tool for training generative AI services to recognize all the significant top false narratives spreading online and to use its ratings of web sources as signals to help both the machines and users of AI models to identify trustworthy news and information. As these initiatives that use AI continue to evolve, it is essential to integrate them into a broader framework and a common ground. In fact, despite challenges and setbacks, increasing efforts are invested in AI as an assistant to help identify problematic information and counter the spread of disinformation (Graves 2018). Taking roots from these promises, the objective of our research is to map the landscape of initiatives that use AI to combat disinformation. Specifically, in this paper we analyze the hyperlink citation structure of the websites of the initiatives that use AI to fight disinformation. Leveraging on a mix of computational techniques and qualitative insights, we aim to identify and categorize these initiatives, as well as their approaches, goals, and challenges, thus providing a comprehensive and critical state of the art for this emerging field. Our mapping illustrates how the use of AI to detect and fight disinformation is distributed in a dense network of different initiatives. In the EU the innovation and development of AI tools is promoted by public funding, especially the H2020 programme. AI tools are thus developed by European projects that are often carried out in partnership with high-education institutions, but are not led by them (an important exception being the University of Sheffield in the UK). In contrast, in the United States, AI tools are developed especially in higher education research environments, particularly in ivy league universities like Harvard and MIT, and supported by private funding. Both groups however have in common the strategy adopted in countering disinformation with AI, which aims at improving the overall quality of the information environment ‘upstream’. This is the crucial difference that distinguishes research projects from fact-checkers initiatives. These last initiatives, that reside primarily but not exclusively in the US, are developing and making use of AI tools to fight disinformation ‘downstream’, to detect disinformation narratives after their spread. Nevertheless, what is common in both those two different approaches of AI applications in the fight against disinformation is the unsubstitutable human supervision. Overall, the use of AI in these disinformation detection and mitigation projects presents both opportunities and challenges. AI can enhance the speed and accuracy of detecting and flagging potentially harmful content, allowing for faster responses to disinformation campaigns. AI algorithms can also help identify patterns in the spread of disinformation, aiding in the development of more targeted responses. Additionally, AI can help automate and reducing the workload on human fact-checkers. One major challenge is the potential for biases to be encoded into AI algorithms, which could exacerbate existing inequalities, reinforce harmful stereotypes and blur the distinction between disinformation and legitimate speech. In this sense, the issue of adversarial attacks, in which malicious actors attempt to manipulate AI systems by feeding them misleading or incorrect data, is also present. Finally, it is interesting to note that most of the inactive websites were projects launched in the US after the election of Trump, meaning during the height of post-truth moral panic. These projects had mainly tried to solve the problem of detecting and moderating false content in a fully automated way, but they clashed with the ethical and practical limitations of such an application.
 

Round table

Panel 4.10 Polarized, biased, distorted. Political communication and threats to election integrity in the European elections


Il quadro della comunicazione politica in Europa evidenzia un generale decadimento dei contenuti e dello stile. In sostanza, l'aumento di pratiche discorsive altamente conflittuali e polarizzate, accompagnate da un imbarbarimento complessivo del dibattito politico, sembra porre in questione l'integrità elettorale. Ci riferiamo, in specie, a quella dimensione che attribuisce valore alla qualità della informazione e agli spazi per un confronto democratico fra partiti e leader. In particolare, le Elezioni europee sono diventate un importante banco di prova per la tenuta della partecipazione, insidiata da un discorso politico caratterizzato da inciviltà politica . La round table è indirizzata a dibattere su come la trasformazione della comunicazione abbia modificato la sfera pubblica e quanto questo condizioni la partecipazione elettorale e, nel complesso, la qualità della democrazia in Europa.

Chairs: Rossana Sampugnaro, Università di Catania; Fabio Bordignon, Università di Urbino

Relatori:
Sara Bentivegna – Sapienza Università di Roma
Diego Garzia – University of Lausanne
Moreno Mancosu – Università di Torino
Dario Tuorto – Università di Bologna

Chairs: Rossana Sampugnaro