Mediated politics and political communication
The spectacle of contemporary politics around the world is intimately bound to a ‘multiaxial’ (Delli Carpini and Williams, 2001) media and communication environment. The nature of contemporary political communication is in continuous transformation (Bennett and Iyengar, 2008). This chapter offers a summary of the main tenets of a discursive approach to political communication. It starts by charting the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary psychology of political communication. The chapter then moves on to discuss how political communication can be conceived of as a social accomplishment, and an outcome of, as well as influence on, complex forms and networks of social practices. After offering some empirical examples drawn from work on the ethnography of political processes, discursive research on politicians’ communicative style, political advertising and political humour, the chapter closes with an outline of an alternative approach to political communication that relies specifically on the importance of investigating how political communications are actually produced, circulated and consumed in society. In doing so, this chapter argues that political psychologists can borrow creatively and learn from media, communication and discourse theorists interested in the complexity of political communications.
The rise of ‘self-expressive politics’ (Stanyer, 2007), the increased ‘personalisation’ (Castells, 2011) and ‘professionalisation’ of politics and political communication (Negrine, 2008; Wodak, 2011) are only some examples of how political phenomena do not exist outside communication processes, outside information and communications of and about politics. Politics and political processes need to be ‘packaged’ (Cappella and Jamieson, 1997; Franklin, 2004) in some communicative form or other in order to reach imagined, proximal or distal audiences. In most Western and Eastern European democracies, this is usually the job of politicians themselves, the mass media, ‘spin doctors’ and the increasingly powerful political public relations industry. Their role is to construct, direct, circulate and disseminate political communications (McNair, 2011).