I’ve agreed to join my colleagues in cyberspace by becoming a regular contributor to this blog. What seems more appropriate than a first blog contribution on blogging based on recent research?
I am involved in the InterEURO project whose main purpose is to get a more comprehensive theoretical and empirical understanding of the role interest groups play in the European polity. The project is supported by the European Science Foundation and includes more than 20 scholars from a wide variety of European countries as well as North America.
At the moment one of the things keeping us busy is the coding up of the thousands and thousands of different actors that make up the EU interest group population. Fortunately, our students help us by participating in so-called “capstone projects” where they code a part of the data which they then use in their master dissertations. One of them is Amber van de Graaf. Together with her, Simon Otjes and I conducted a little “side project” to InterEURO on the usage of new media by interest groups. Based on detailed website coding we made a systematic investigation of the extent to which organizations use 11 different types of new media activities, including blogging. Next we looked at which factors explain variation in the usage of new media by these organizations.
Our preliminary analyses of app. 200 groups indicate that around 80 percent of the organizations that appear in “traditional media” also use some form of “new media”. However, we find that the factors that explain the usage of new media are somewhat different from the factors that explain the usage of many other strategies used by interest groups. Resources seem not to play much a role for the use of new media. Instead, we see that organizations which have individuals as members are more likely to make use of these new technologies than organizations which don’t. Moreover, the level of representation matters: Organizations with an international, global scope use new media more than others. Finally, we find some evidence that there may be differences in the use of new media by groups representing different types of substantive interests. Our results are preliminary but provide an interesting snapshot into the usage of these newer tools of communication, which has received very little systematic attention so far. Our next step is to investigate these relationships further and turn our little project into a proper publication…..
In the meantime, the coding of the EU interest group population continues. It’ll generate new information how the complex EU political system interacts with external actors at different levels of governance. By doing so we hope to provide answers to some of the more complex questions regarding the state of EU democracy, which figure high up on the political agenda.
I’ll update you as we come across more interesting results…..