New-age voters follow #powerandknowledge than braggadocios

Between Utopia and Dystopia

-         The Twitter World of Indian Political Elites

A study by MICA

5 tweets v/s 217 tweets in a month: What sets the trend?

Ahmedabad, Dec 18, 2013:Amidst the hue and cry that political parties are facing nation-wide in the recently held elections, one of the most candid conclusion that came to fore was the impact of twitter in deciding the vote bank. The research study by Assistant Professor Santosh K. Patra from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA), deep-dived into the phenomena of political elites’ cyber-world, through their twitter presence to understand the national political agenda and social engagement of 10 selected political elites.

Commenting on the current trend of social media engagement, Prof. Santosh Patra, observed: “Digital medium will play a crucial role in attracting young voters this election year. According to the recent census data there are close to 150 million first-time voters between the ages of 18 and 22. Technology will play an instrumental role in getting the voters registered.”

As a part of the research study, 10 most followed political elites on the micro-blogging site ‘twitter’, were included- namely Narendra Modi, Shashi Tharoor, Sushma Swaraj, Arvind Kejriwal, Omar Abdullah, Subramanian Swamy, Ajay Maken, Digvijay Singh and Naveen Jindal. As the part of data collection, individual ‘tweets’ from the selected ten accounts are collected over a period of one month, before the declaration of one of the national political party’s Prime Ministerial candidate for the upcoming national election (2014). They were then analyzed by adopting hermeneutics as the method of data analysis to understand the cyber-world of the political elites, while balancing their knowledge and power. The period which is considered is basically from 15th August to 15th September 2013, including the declaration of the Prime Ministerial candidates for the forthcoming central election 2014. After the data-collection’s subjective interpretation and theoretical framework is discussed in other sections, the data is coded in four categories considering the knowledge and power in the cyber-world (lifeworld). The four major codes such as dystopia, utopia, knowledge and self-projection are given to analyse the tweets of selected political elites and derived from the theories for a cyber-world analysis. All tweets collected in the given period studied and a given a code to find the emerging trend of representation of political elites in their cyber-world.

While analysing the number of followers, it was seen that Narendra Modi, who is from the opposition party, has the highest number of followers. It is interesting to note that Arvind Kejriwal, who is considerably new to the arena of politics, has been on the higher side of the followers’ graph. Nevertheless, when numbers of tweets are taken into account, Arvind Kejriwal ranked the lowest.

Twitter does convey the agenda that a particular politician desires to set across. However, it also shows the kind of mind-set a particular politician has. People active on twitter may have a good numbers of followers. Politicians with a fairly good number of tweets, having comparatively less number of followers, also exist. Thus, only number of tweets cannot ascertain the number of followers. There are various other factors which collect and motivate the general public to follow a politician.

The data suggests that maximum tweets have been written covering dystopia, utopia and others. However there are some tweets that pertain to self-projection of the politician, which indicates the tendency of drifting away from writing about them. This is also conveys that politicians are smart enough to portray themselves as a leader with food for thought and concern, rather than a blabbering individual bluffing about their own selves. However, one leader who has given equal importance to all kind of issues without overshadowing his own projection is Narendra Modi.

Narendra Modi has been known for his aggressive campaigning and transforming the country towards a positive side of political, economic and social spheres, with 113 tweets). Shashi Tharoor on the other hand, speaks intellectually on various issues and has seemingly established himself as a thoughtful politician with an intellectual bent of mind, with 217 tweets. Despite tweeting in a large number, Subramanian Swamy could not gather many followers. Similar is the case with Naveen Jindal and Digvijay Singh. Arvind Kejriwal however, with the lowest tweets (5 in a month’s span), is ruling the roost. Thus, though twitter plays a role, it’s the amalgamation of other medium /platforms including the individuals’ perception and word-of-mouth that plays a larger role.

The study clearly sees the fourtypes of political elites’ creation of cyber-world through their tweets’ analysis:

    • - You see your reflection in me (“I am more of a knowledge partner, than a power centre- Knowledge focused partner”)
    • - I still believe in the power-centric approach of politics and carry on to the new media cyber-world (“my world represents the utopian and others represent the dystopian”)
    • - I can balance my view with yours (“I represent your utopian world and can also be your knowledge partner, while they represent the world of dystopia”)
    • - “I am here because I need to be, I can’t ignore you”

Note: The finding of the study is being presented in BRAFFTV Film and Media Conference 2013, University of Toronto, Canada, 18-20 October, 2013. The presentation can be accessed from- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSCL_pGaijc

*For more details please contact Prof Santosh K Patra, +91-9879-52-2627, email-[email protected]