A number of scholars have highlighted a crisis in public communication whereby journalism and politics were falling short of their democratic responsibilities. Two decades later, this conclusion is bolstered by widespread distrust in traditional media increasing political populism and journalism’s apparent failure to sufficiently address prevailing issues. Simultaneously, the internet has facilitated a seismic digital transition in public communication. This has dismantled the linear schedule of journalistic communication, fragmented news audiences and established a more accessible platform for public discourse and information. This transition has enabled alternative media platforms to develop their own editorial positions, often unhindered by traditional imperatives of political economy and the usual operational norms of journalism. Accordingly, they can challenge traditional political news reporting. We invite a PhD candidate to study these alternative platforms, and how they might reach beyond fourth estate journalism, addressing key questions that might include the following:
- How are contemporary alternative communication platforms positioned within the wider mediated public sphere?
- What communicative strategies do these platforms use to engage their audiences? (These strategies might include satire, opinion, emotion, official discourse, multimodal content and so on)
- How do these strategies compare with those used by mainstream media, bearing in mind the prevailing regulatory framework within which they operate? (For example, how do they compare in terms of partisanship/impartiality and objectivity?)
- How do these strategies relate to audience reception, and what reactions do they generate? (For example, do they promote civic agency, do they inform, do they generate cynicism, or do they simple contribute to political echo chambers?)
It is envisaged that the successful candidate will address such questions within a UK context, however, we are fully prepared to consider strong candidates who have a different case study in mind. Furthermore, we are happy to consider candidates that wish to take the holistic approach we indicate above, but equally, we will also consider those candidates who wish to embark on a more specific audience-based or textual investigation. Since these alternative platforms are continually developing, proliferating and becoming an established part of the contemporary public sphere, existing scholarship is underdeveloped. Accordingly, we expect that this project will make a seminal contribution to this emerging academic realm.
This project will straddle the academic disciplines of journalism, political communication, audience studies, and digital literacy, and we anticipate that a strong contribution is possible to one or more these fields and the departments within Swansea University that attend to them.
The supervisors are both active researchers within the field of political communications, and anticipate that the candidate will be able to participate in a variety of associated research projects throughout the period of study.
Dr Richard Thomas (Department of Media and Communication)
Dr Allaina Kilby (Department of Media and Communication)