Social media and perspectives of liquid democracy: The example of political communication in the pirate party in Germany
In: Proceedings of the European Conference on e-Government, ECEG. 2012, Pages 403-407.
12th European Conference on e-Government, ECEG 2012; Barcelona; Spain; 14 June 2012 through 15 June 2012.
The recent success of the Pirate Party in the local elections in Berlin (8,9 percent) as well as their popularity in Germany on the national level (10 percent according to Forsa-palls in October) set a new round of discussion concerning the reforming of representative democracy in accordance with the new age of social media. This paper examines the reasons of success of the Pirates, in particular their strategies of political communication, and makes conclusions concerning the challenges and prospects of the idea of liquid democracy. Although among the Pirate-voters protest voting is widely spread, that doesn't explain the phenomenon of the marginal "Internet-party" gaining a nationwide popularity. Based on both theoretical and empirical research author claims that it is the new approach to political communication in democracy that makes the party so attractive. They managed to address social milieus which don't match with the traditional target groups division by age, profession etc. such as "modern performers" and "post-materialists" (Zolleis, Prokopf, Strauch 2010) as well as to meet the expectations of Internet-users, who are used to and who are willing to participate in politics. In their political communication 'pirates' use the social media tools which have been already explored and used in political campaigns all other the world, but unlike other parties their do it consequently and authentically (e.g. they manage themselves their social media presence that leads to even bigger overlap of private and public sphere in communication of voters and politicians). This paper examines how the concept of liquid democracy works within the party, showing that structure of the party itself resembles more of a network then a political institution, which obviously correlates with the trends of the 'network society' (Castells), but at the same time represents the main weakness of the liquid democracy concept: it is hardly possible to control the content of the network and therefore to use it as an ultimate instrument of decision making in politics. It could still be an effective tool for the civil society to set the political agenda and influence the framing of political discourse.