Der deutsche Bundestagswahlkampf im Superwahljahr 2009 war mit seinen Online-Elementen im Wesentlichen durch zwei Umstände geprägt: Die Erwartungen von Öffentlichkeit und Medien einen starken Online-Wahlkampf zu erleben und den Online-Experimenten der Parteien im direkten Vorlauf zur Bundestagswahl.
Purpose – The steady increase of data on human behavior collected online holds significant research potential for social scientists. The purpose of this paper is to add a systematic discussion of different online services, their data generating processes, the offline phenomena connected to these data, and by demonstrating, in a proof of concept, a new approach for the detection of extraordinary offline phenomena by the analysis of online data.
Design/methodology/approach – To detect traces of extraordinary offline phenomena in online data, the paper determines the normal state of the respective communication environment by measuring the regular dynamics of specific variables in data documenting user behavior online. In its proof of concept, the paper does so by concentrating on the diversity of hashtags used on Twitter during a given time span. The paper then uses the seasonal trend decomposition procedure based on loess (STL) to determine large deviations between the state of the system as forecasted by the model and the empirical data. The paper takes these deviations as indicators for extraordinary events, which led users to deviate from their regular usage patterns.
Findings – The paper shows in the proof of concept that this method is able to detect deviations in the data and that these deviations are clearly linked to changes in user behavior triggered by offline events.
Originality/value – The paper adds to the literature on the link between online data and offline phenomena. The paper proposes a new theoretical approach to the empirical analysis of online data as indicators of offline phenomena. The paper will be of interest to social scientists and computer scientists working in the field.
Increasingly, political actors have to act in online communication environments. There they meet overlapping networked publics with different levels of participatory cultures and varying expectations of participation in the (re)making and co-production of political content. This challenges political actors used to a top-down approach to communication. Meanwhile, online users are increasingly politically involved as legislatures all over the world become more active in regulating communication environments online. These new political actors often share participatory practices and have high levels of new media skills. Now they are challenged to adapt these bottom-up participatory cultures to the traditional political environment. This paper examines these adaption processes by examining three examples from the campaign for the German federal election of 2009. These examples include the attempt of Germany's conservative party (CDU) to encourage their supporters to adapt participatory practices, the German Social Democrats' (SPD) top-down production and distribution of online content that mimicked the look and feel of user-generated content, and the bottom-up emergence of political flash mobs.