Social network sites: an innovative form of political communication? A socio-technical approach to media innovation

Sandrine Roginsky


This article’s objective is to explore the interrelations between social media technology and users in order to assess whether and how actors drive innovation. I am interested in understanding how social media technology configure users, how users reconfigure technologies to meet their needs and what users do with social media technology. The mainstream perspective on politicians who use social media has been based on the premise that social media technology is, by nature, an innovative tool and that politicians are not using it to its full potential. However I argue that technology is not innovative by nature and further that emerging practices are actually accompanying the use of social media by political actors but that those practices are related to the collaborative production of speech and rearrangement of editorial rules in political communication. Thus the bulk of the paper is devoted to showing that, through the use of social media technology, media and political communication are converging. The article builds upon examples from the use of social media technology by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). I provide empirical insights into how Members of the European Parliament and their staff adapt to social media technology while using it in a creative way and how uses contribute to changes in the technology itself. This article is empirically grounded and aims at providing examples to highlight the role of actors in defining and developing innovation in the field of media technology. The argument of the paper is that innovation in media technology takes place at the level of practices. Yet new and old practices are interfering as more established practices meet social media technology, challenging the notion of newness and pointing out to the role and influence of the institutional context on innovation. This article finally outlines some of the existing claims made for the innovative potential of social media regarding politics and lays out a number of issues and questions that should lead us to be wary about celebratory accounts.


Political Communication; Media Innovations; Social Media; Social Network Sites; Practices; Technology; Context

Full Text:



Alter, N. (2000). L’innovation ordinaire. Paris : PUF.

Bertot, J.C., Jaeger, P.T., Grimes J.M. (2010). Using ICTs to create a culture of transparency : E-governement and social media as openness and anti-corruption tools for societies. Government Information Quaterly, 27 : 264-271.

Bijker, W., Hughes, T. and Pinch, T. (1987). The social construction of technological systems: New directions in the sociology and history of technology. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Blumler, J. and Coleman, S. (2010). Political communication in freefall: The British case – and others? The International Journal of Press/Politics, 15(2): 139-154.

Bonny, Y. and Giuliani, F. (2012). Configurations et trajectoires de l’innovation institutionnelle. Une introduction. Revue de l’association française de sociologique, 7 [on line] URL:

Breton, P. (2002). Les discours d’accompagnement. Les dossiers de l’audiovisuel. Les nouvelles technologies : quels usages, quels usagers, 103 : 5-9.

Busby, A. and Belkacem, K. (2013). “Coping with the information overload”; an exploration

of assistants’ backstage role in the everyday practice of European Parliament politics. European integration online papers (EIoP), Special issue 1, Vol. 17, Article 4 [on line] URL:, pp. 1-28.

Cardon, D. (2005). Innovation par l’usage. In : Ambrosi, A., Pimienta, D., and Peugeot, V. (eds.) Enjeux de mots : regards multiculturels sur les sociétés de l’information. C&F edition, [on line] URL :

Chandler, D. (1998). Personal home pages and the construction of identities on the Web”. Paper presented at Aberystwyth Post-International Group Conference on Linking Theory and Practice: Issues in the Politics of Identity, 9-11 September 1998, University of Wales, Aberystwyth [on line] URL :

Coutant, A. and Stenger, T. (2012). Les médias sociaux : une histoire de participation. Le temps des médias, 18 : 76-86.

Crawford, K. (2009). Following you: disciplines of listening in social media. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 23, (4) : 525-535.

De Certeau, M. (1980). L’invention du quotidian. Arts de faire. Paris: Folio Essais.

Deuze, M. (2006). Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering principal components of a digital culture. The Information Society, 22: 63-75.

Deuze, M. (1999). Journalism and the Web: An analysis of skills and standards in an online environment. International Communication Gazette, 61(5): 373-390.

Ellison, N.B. and boyd, D. (2013). Sociality through Social Network Sites. In: Dutton, W.H. (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 151-172.

Elmer, G., Langlois, G. and McKelvey, F. (2012). The permanent campaign. New media, new politics. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Flichy, P. (2007). Understanding technological innovation. A socio-technical approach. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Flichy, P. and Libbrecht, L. (1995). Socio-technological Action and Frame of Reference. Réseaux, 3, (1): 9-30.

Fuglsang, L. (2010). Bricolage and invisible innovation in public service innovation. Journal of Innovation Economics & Management, 1, (5): 67-87.

Goffman, E. (1959). Presentation of Self in everyday life. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor.

Gourgues, G. (2012). Les fonctionnaires participatifs : les routines d’une innovation institutionnelle sans fin(s). Revue de l’association française de sociologie, 7, [on line] URL:

Hardy, C. (2010). Textualizing technology : Knowledge, artifact and practice. I, Philips, N., Sewell, G., Griffiths, D. (eds.) Technology and Organization : Essays in honour of Joan Woodward. Research in the sociology of organizations, Vol.29 : 247-258.

Hartley, D. (2005). Innovation in governance and public services : past and present. Public money & Management, 25 (1) : 27-34.

Hine, C. (2009). Question one: how can Internet researchers define the boundaries of their project. In: Marklham, A. and Baym, N. (eds.) Internet Inquiry. 1-20. London: Sage

Hine, C. (2000). Virtual Ethnography. London: Sage Publications

Jackson, N. and Lilleker, D. (2011). Microblogging, constituency service and Impression management ; UK MPs and the use of Twitter. The Journal of Legislative Studies, 17 (1): 86-105.

Hoff, J. (2004). Members of parliaments’ use of ICT in a comparative European perspective. Information Polity, 9: 5-16.

Jenkins, H. and Deuze, M. (2008). Editorial: Convergence Culture, The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 14, (1): 5-12.

Jouët, J. (1993). Usages et pratiques des nouveaux outils de communication. In : Sfez, L. (ed.) Dictionnaire critique de la communication. Vol.1. 371-376. Paris : PUF.

Klijn, E.H. and Koppenjan, J.F.M. (2000). Politicians and interactive decision making : institutional spoilsports or playmakers. Public Administration, 78(2) :365-387.

Kling, R. and Schacchi, W. (1982). The web of computing : computing technology as social organizations. Advances in computers, Vol. 21 : 1-90.

Kushin, M.J. and Kitchener, K. (2009). Getting political on social network sites: Exploring online political discourse on Facebook. First Monday, 14, (11) [on line] URL:

Larsson, A.O. (2013). Bringing it all back home? Social media practices by Swedish municipalities. European Journal of Communication, Vol.28, no. 6, 681-695.

Lazlo-Toth, G. (2010). La co-construction d’un dispositive sociotechnique de communication: le cas de l’Internet Relay Chat. Thèse de doctorat. Faculté de communication, Université du Québec à Montréal.

Loader, B.D. and Mercea, D. (2011). Networking democracy? Information, Communication & Society, 14(6): 757-769.

Le Bart, C. (1998). L’écriture comme modalité d’exercice du métier politique. Revue française de science politique, 1, 76-96.

Lévi-Strauss, C. (1966). The savage mind. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Lilleker, D. and Koc-Michalska, K. (2011) MEPs online: Understanding communication strategies for remote representatives. Paper presented at the European Consortium of Political Researchers Conference, Reykjavik (Iceland), September.

Mallard, A. (2005). Following the emergence of unpredictable uses? New stakes and tasks for a social scientific understanding of ICT uses. In: Haddon, L. Mante E., Sapio, B., Kommonen, K.H., Fortunati, L. and Kant, A. (eds.) Everyday innovators: researching the role of users in shaping ICT’s. Dordrecht: Sringer.

Marwick, A.E. and boyd, D. (2010). I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse and the imagined audience. New Media & Society, 13, (1): 114-133

Mérand, F. (2011). EU Policies. In: Favell, A. and Guiraudon, V. (eds.) Sociology of European Union. 172-192. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Michon, S. (2008) Assistants in the European Parliament, a springboard for a European career. Sociologie du travail, 50(2): 169-183.

Miller, D. and Slater, D. (2000). The Internet: an ethnographic approach. Oxford: Berg.

Oliverai, G.H. & Watson-Manhein, M.B. (2013). Use of social media in the workplace: contradictions and unintended consequences. Proceedings of the Nineteenth Americas Conference on Information Systems, Chicago, Illinois, August 15-17.

Oliveira, G.H & Welch, E. (2013). The paradox of social media: risks for the public sector. Paper prepared for the PAT-NET 2013 Conference, San Francisco, May 30 – June 2.

Orlikowski, W.J. (2007) Sociomaterial practices: exploring technology at work. Organization Studies. 28(09) 1435-1448.

Ornebring, H. (2013). Anything you can do, I can do better? Professional journalists on citizen journalism in six European countries. The International Communicaiton Gazette. 75, (1) 35-53.

Pempek, T.A., Yermolaleva, Y.A., & Calvert, S.L. (2008). College students’ social networking experiences on Facebook. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30 (3): 227-238.

Pooley, J. (2013). Sociology and the socially mediated self. Working paper. [on line] URL:

Ramiller, N.C. (2006). Hype! Toward a theory of exaggeration in information technology innovation. Conference Proceeding Acad Manag Proc.

Rogers, E. (1995) Diffusion of innovations, New York, NY: The Free Press

Rogers, R. (2013). Debanalizing Twitter: The transformation of an object of study. Proc. WebSci 13, New York: ACM.

Roginsky, S. (2014). “Social networking sites: an innovative communications on Europe ? Analysis in the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council”. In Stepinska, A. (dir.). Media and Communication on Europe. Logos Verlag, Berling.

Sinescu, C. (2008). The media and the representations of politics. Revue des Sciences Politiques, Craiova University, 17: 86-95.

Sørenson, E. (2006). Metagovernance. The changing role of politicians in processes of democratic governance. The American Review of Public Administration. 26(1): 98-114.

Steensen, S. (2013). Balancing the bias. The need for counter-discursive perspectives in media innovation research. In: Storsu, T. and Krumsvik, A.H. (eds.) Media innovations. A multidisciplinary study of change. Nordicom [on line] URL:

Steensen, S. (2009). What’s stopping them? Towards a grounded theory of innovation in online journalism. Journalism Studies, 10(6): 821-836.

Vedel, T. (1994). Sociologie des innovations technologiques et usagers: introduction à une socio-politique des usages. In: Vitalis, A. (ed.) Médias et nouvelles technologies, pour une socio-politique des usages. 13-34. Rennes: Apogée

Vergeer, M., Hermans, L. and Sams, S. (2011). Online social networks and micro-blogging in political campaigning: the exploration of a new campaign tool and a new campaign style. Party Politics, 19(3): 477-501.

Westling, M. (2007). Expanding the public sphere: the impact of Facebook on political communication [on line] URL:



  • There are currently no refbacks.