[Air-L] 2023 Conference of the Italian Association of Political Communication (AssoComPol)

Antonio Martella ant.martella at gmail.com
Fri Mar 10 02:09:42 PST 2023

*** 2023 Conference of the Italian Association of Political Communication
(AssoComPol) ***

Beyond digital political communication: platforms, algorithm and automation

8-10 June 2023, University of Torino, Italy


Political communication is going through a phase of deep transformation.
Communicative environments have reached full digitalization, and this new
paradigm brings new challenges. The platformization of society and the web
through its constitutive elements – data, algorithms, automations, and
interfaces (Van Dijk et al., 2018) – has affected the public value of
communication and information.

Datafication affects different areas of society, and it is becoming
increasingly relevant for both the production and communication of public
policies. It changes the relationship between actors and processes. The
development of information technologies has enabled the application of new
analytical methodologies for investigating social phenomena by monitoring
behaviours that would otherwise be difficult to detect (Theocharis &
Jungherr, 2020). However, data produced by citizens/users and their
interactions are not easily and/or fully accessible, mainly due to the
convergence of proprietary platform logic and privacy protection. Access to
these data have become increasingly difficult, even for academic
institutions (Persily & Tucker, 2020).

While data fuel platforms, algorithms allow and rule their functioning.
>From a communication point of view, algorithms represent the manifestations
and outcomes of media logic and how subjects perceive and interpret the
latter, contributing to the development and deployment of algorithms
(Klinger & Svensson, 2018). In this context, the development of
increasingly advanced generative technologies such as Chat GPT raises
questions from an ethical perspective and regarding the uses of platforms
in relation to AI technologies as well.

Algorithms have consistently raised the attention of social research on
risks and possible consequences, such as the polarization and
radicalization of public debate. However, successful concepts such as echo
chambers (Sunstein, 2002) and filter bubbles (Pariser, 2011) seem fewer
adequate to explain the complexity of the relationship between platforms
and users. Indeed, polarization dynamics appear to be more related to the
heterogeneity of opinions encountered on platforms than to the action of
echo chambers (Tucker et al., 2018). Moreover, platforms driven by
algorithms seem to widen the range of information sources to which
citizens/users are exposed (Barberá, 2020) instead of “locking them up” in
self-referential bubbles. Against this background, the success of Tik Tok,
based on the algorithmic logic of #foryou selection (Newman, 2022), raises
new and additional questions for main actors in political communication.

Linked to polarization dynamics are also expressions of intolerance, hate,
and incivility (Mason, 2018) that reinforce dimensions such as structural
inequalities and biases based on gender, religion, ethnicity. These
processes appear increasingly present in online public debate, especially
during specific political events and controversial policies (Theocharis et
al., 2022). In this case, the prominent role of platforms contributes to
amplifying their visibility, but also the possibilities for detection and
analysis through the use of computational methods (Theocharis & Jungherr,

The spread of mis/disinformation is also often linked to the centrality
assumed by platforms although, among its main causes is the way this is
“packaged” (Vosoughi & Aral, 2018) beyond the support of coordinated online
campaigns (Keller et al., 2019). Moreover, the ability to influence
attitudes and behaviors depends primarily on alignment with pre-existing
political, moral, beliefs (Freelon & Wells, 2020) and the citizens’/users’
level of partisanship (Druckman et al., 2021). Within the hybrid media
ecosystem, even legacy media are not immune to these processes, considering
that they are often forced to chase an increasingly faster flow of
information that is difficult to verify.

Platformization of communication has also affected information production
and the journalistic profession. The dominance of platforms, in fact, has
changed the ways through which users find information (Nielsen & Fletcher,
2020). However, news shared on social media are generally considered less
credible, affecting trust in the media in the long run (Karlsen & Aalberg,
2021). Furthermore, the processes of adapting information to algorithmic
logic play a relevant role in growing news avoidance (Skovsgaard &
Andersen, 2019) and are increasingly changing newsmaking and publishing,
including legacy media trying to remain competitive (Newman, 2023).

Finally, all these processes take place in a scenario that has radically
changed due to recent dramatic events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the
war in Ukraine. The scale of these events, on the one hand, has accelerated
the digitization of the information ecosystem (Newman, 2022). On the other
hand, it has provided the opportunity for outsider actors and new
information channels to compete with traditional elites by further
challenging roles and power relations (Van Aelst & Blumler, 2022).

Starting from this framework, we encourage the submission of papers
investigating the impact of platformization processes on the fields of
political communication, journalism, and all other forms of communication.
Research that focuses on digital native phenomena and forms of
communication, but also on traditional ones and their adaptation to the new
platformed environments, are welcome. We are interested in both theoretical
essays and empirical studies, and we welcome different methodological
approaches and research designs (quantitative, qualitative, and
mixed-methods). Issues of interest include (but are not limited to):

   - new communication scenarios in the increasingly close and complex
   relationship between political communication and platforms;
   - political and government communication strategies, election campaigns,
   and voting in national and international contexts;
   - the role of data, platforms, algorithms, and automation (AI, bots,
   etc.) in the processes of political communication and news reporting by
   institutional and non-institutional actors;
   - data access policies for purposes of research, campaigning, and
   profiling of the communication message; transparency of platforms and
   related tensions with the privacy paradigm;
   - the trends that have emerged in the communication styles of leaders
   and parties in a hybrid and platformized communication ecosystem;
   - the technological infrastructure of political participation (digital
   parties, networks, influencers, memes, UGC);
   - new repertoires of extra-institutional political communication related
   to protests, social movements, and civil society actors;
   - the transformations and controversies of public debate concerning
   processes of ideological and affective polarization, incivility, and online
   and offline forms of discrimination;
   - changes  in contemporary journalism, with a particular focus on the
   growth of the phenomenon of news avoidance;
   - techniques of (computational) propaganda and mis/dis-information in
   conflict scenarios and transformations of news coverage in war contexts;
   - methodological proposals and theoretical elaborations to approach the
   transformations of political communication generated in the intersection of
   platform use and communication datafication.

*Useful information on how to write an abstract for AssoComPol conferences
can be found in the section “Abstract instructions”*.

   - Paper proposals must include: Title, Name of authors, Affiliation with
   email, extended abstract of 600/800 words excluding bibliography, 3
   keywords, and bibliograhpical references.
   - Deadline for submission of proposals: April* 4* to
   - Notification of acceptance: *April 27*
   - Full papers must be submitted by *June 1 *in the conference paper room
   (accessible by login)

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