Goldmedia-Preis für Medienwirtschaft an Marie Christine Walter. Soziale Netzwerke und die Gesellschaft im politischen Diskurs.

Warum dieses Thema und worum geht es?

Marie Christine Walter: „90 Prozent der deutschen Internetnutzer erhalten durch soziale Medien Zugang zum politischen Diskurs – eine einzigartige Chance zur Stärkung politischer Meinungsbildung. Was jedoch passiert, wenn Wahlentscheidungen auf falschen Annahmen basieren, das online Stimmungsbild realitätsfern wirkt und radikale Minderheiten die Diskussion dominieren? Die vorliegende Arbeit bringt Transparenz in eine von Unsicherheit geprägt Debatte durch eine Wirkungsanalyse zum Einfluss sozialer Medien auf deutsches Wahlverhalten, resultierende Konsequenzen für die Demokratie und Maßnahmen für einen verantwortungsvollen Mediengebrauch.“

Abstract zur Masterarbeit von Marie Christine Walter

Summary of Insights on Social Media’s Democratic Impact
90 % of German Internet users have transformed from passive information consumers into active content creators through Social Media presence. This boundaryless access to public speaking represents an unprecedented opportunity for opinion formation and concurrent breeding ground for manipulation. For one thing, constant involvement of citizens is facilitated and hence, societal autonomy for self-determined elections is enhanced. However, what happens if these voting decisions are suddenly based on false assumptions? What are the consequences of a public consensus online, which differs significantly from the societal atmospheric picture offline? Which effects result from the exposure towards radical minorities?

As a result of this dichotomy, an omnipresence of uncertainty and fear dominates the resulting media discussion. For this academic paper, the emotional debate yields a rational impact analysis of Social Media on German democracy based on three linked research questions. The thesis encompasses (1) the effect of Social Media on German voting behavior, (2) resulting consequences for the underlying democracy, and (3) measures for responsible future usage. Based on two quantitative investigations with 492 respondents, the political application of Social Media through voters and politicians is outlined. Forty-five interviews with political actors, party-affiliated foundations, political and data scientists complete the compilation of data. This collective of investigations presents a countermeasure to the lack of preceding academic research and restraints in Social Media education. As a result, this present in-depth exploration of Social Media communication brings light into the dark as follows.

(1) Do Social Media affect German voting behavior?
German voters appear as increasingly influenceable subjects, who are consciously influenced by political actors and unconsciously impacted by other voters. The entirety of political actors shows a considerable willingness to exert influence but is restricted in their implementation due to a lack of knowledge, deprioritization of online communication, and strategic alignment. Also the impact of voters is limited due to missing media competence and willingness for conscious attempts of impact. Hence, while the foundation for potential impact has been set, additional future effects are supposed to arise upon increased proportional relevance and trust in Social Media within the German media landscape.
Elections 2019 – Lessons Learned? The Influence of Social Media Use on German Electoral Behavior

(2) To which extent are German elections further democratized?
Social Media democratize voting behavior as they initiate politicization of voters, grant further access to political content and encourage reflected opinion formation. Still, opportunities are hampered through anti-democratic risks, towards which the German society is ill-prepared. The risk of distortion of reality due to Social Media bubbles internally and trolls and social bots externally are, in particular, worth mentioning. Hence, while Social Media can favor democracy, they equally represent a tool with power for positive and negative influence.

(3) How does a responsible use with social platforms look?
The dual consequences of moderate impact result in euphoria going hand in hand with insecurity and causing an increased responsibility for the individual. Still, Social Media’s impact is comparatively low and does not justify the predominant media discourse. Effects can be curbed prior to a rise in influence through more substantial consideration in the media landscape. Therefore, responsibility should not be unilaterally assigned. Instead, collective media education and response alignment are of the highest relevance. German society faces the opportunity to timely stem arising threats while exploiting opportunities for democratization.

In total, 40 introduced recommendations equally address media education, data consumption, and online engagement. Their collective is supposed to initiate responsible Social Media handling. Still, only the cooperation of platforms, political actors, and voters can promote the assumption of liability in political communication. Thus, no single measurement catalog but rather the synergies of actions bear the potential to transform challenges into opportunities. As a consequence, every individual of the collective in its function as voter, politician, or platform operator needs to start blaming oneself and focus on one’s responsibility, while tackling newly arising challenges together with their triangular partnership.

As the medium’s nature is still evolving, it is up to our society to transform Social Media as an enhancement for German politicization and democratization. Hence, the present academic paper serves as appeal to collectively assume political responsibility immediately.

Goldmedia-Preis für innovative Abschlussarbeiten im Bereich Medienwirtschaft – Informationen www.Goldmedia.com/preis

Bewerben konnten sich alle Absolventinnen und Absolventen, die im Jahr 2019 oder im Vorjahr ihren Abschluss erreicht haben. Die Ausschreibung war offen für deutsch- und englischsprachige Arbeiten aus unterschiedlichen Fachrichtungen (u.a. Publizistik, Kommunikationswissenschaft, Medienwirtschaft, Medienmanagement, Medienrecht, BWL, VWL, Informationswissenschaft, Medieninformatik). Einsendeschluss war der 30. September 2019. Der Preis ist mit insgesamt 1.500,00 Euro dotiert und wurde in diesem Jahr auf drei Preisträgerinnen und Preisträger verteilt. (ein 1. Preis und zwei 2. Preise) Aufgrund der Vielzahl und des hohen Niveaus der eingereichten Abschlussarbeiten wurden weitere 5 Arbeiten mit einer Urkunde gewürdigt. Alle Informationen: www.goldmedia.com/preis-2019

Unsere drei Preisträger erhielten neben dem Preisgeld zusätzlich ein kostenfreies Ticket für den Medien- und Innovationskongress Media Tasting 2020, der am 07. Oktober 2020 in Stuttgart stattfindet. https://mediatasting.com/

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