From Collectivity to Connectivity? Media and Political Participation


Despite the consensus that social media are changing communication, no such consensus exists when it comes to assessing the effects that the emerging social network services may have on political participation. While optimistic assumptions point toward increased interest and the fostering of social engagement through the use of online social networks, the more skeptical view expects an exacerbation of the trend toward dwindling political interest and increasing political apathy, as manifested, for example, in declining voter participation and party membership. The present study argues that the contradictory assessments are due to different definitions of participation, which themselves reflect changing notions of democracy. Based on representative survey data, the analysis focuses on the relationship of media use and various forms of political participation, examining whether the former ideal of "collective action" is being replaced by the notion of "connective action" (W. Lance Bennett), which puts more emphasis on participatory action as an act of personal expression across trusted social networks.


Own funds

CMC Staff

Maren Beaufort (Contact)

Josef Seethaler (Project Leader)

Cooperation Partners

Brian D. Loader, University of York, Department of Sociology (Congress Organisation: “Digital Media, Political Polarization and Challenges to Democracy”)

Congress Organisation

Digital Media, Political Polarization and Challenges to Democracy - an International Symposium (with the University of York), Vienna, 21-22 September 2017

ORF DialogForum „Wer ist das Volk? [Who are the People?]“ - Public Lecture mit W. Lance Bennett, University of Washington (with the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF), Vienna, 21 September 2017

Changing Media – Changing Democracy? Exploring the Democratic Potential of Social Media. 20th Anniversary Conference of the Institute for Comparative Media and Communication Studies (CMC) along with the 4th Research Conference of the Austrian Research Association – Working Group on Democracy and the 2014 Workshop of the “Network Media Structures”, Vienna, 6-7 November 2014

In the Media

Comment on the lecture by W. Lance Bennett in: Falter, 04.10.2017

Maren Beaufort and Josef Seethaler on social media and political engagement: Ö1 – “Digital.Leben“, 25.01.2016

20th Anniversary Conference of CMC on Youtube, 10 November 2014 

Publications and Lectures

Articles and Book Chapters

Articles and Book Chapters

  • Beaufort, M. (2019). Introduction: Digital media, political polarization and challenges to democracy. In M. Beaufort (Ed.), Digital media, political polarization and challenges to democracy (pp. 1-7). London, New York: Routledge.
  • Beaufort, M. (2018). Digital media, political polarization and challenges to democracy. Information, Communication & Society, 21, 915-920. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2018.1451909
  • Riedl, A. (2016). Kontakt mit Andersdenkenden im Social Web: Chance oder Gefahr für die politische Partizipation? Ergebnisse einer Befragung österreichischer UserInnen [Disagreement in social media: Chance or threat for political participation? Results of a survey among Austrian users]. In D. Bertel, Himmelsbach, J., Krakovsky, C., Metzler, B., Riedl, A., & Möller, L. (Eds.), Junge Perspektiven auf Partizipation in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Beiträge zur ersten - Fachtagung zu Kommunikation [Young perspectives on participation in the past and the present] (pp. 300-323). Wien: danzig & unfried.
  • Beaufort, M., & Seethaler, J. (2014). Wandel der Mediennutzung - Wandel im politischen Verhalten? [Changing media use - changing political participation?]. Medien Journal, 38, 15-41.
  • Kaun, A., Lunt, P., Van Zoonen, L., Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, P., & Stark, B. (2013). The mediation of civic participation: Diverse forms of political agency in a multimedia age. In N. Carpentier, Schrøder, K., & Hallet, L. (Eds.), Transforming audiences, transforming societies.



  • 30/11/2018 , Lucerne
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Von kollektiver zu konnektiver Logik? Eine vergleichende Untersuchung des Verhältnisses von Mediennutzung und politischer Beteiligung [From a collective to a connective logic? Comparing media use and political participation across time and countries]]
    Mediensymposium 2018: Digitaler Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit – Historische Verortung, Modelle und Konsequenzen
  • 11/05/2018 , Mannheim
    Josef Seethaler: 
    Soziale Netzwerkmedien als Institutionen? Ein Gedankenaustausch aus Anlass des Schader-Preises 2018 an Otfried Jarren [Social network media as institutions? A discussion on the occasion of the award of the Schader Prize 2018 to Otfried Jarren]
    63rd Annual Conference of the German Communication Association (DGPuK)
  • 13/04/2018 , Lugano
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Rechtspopulismus, politisches Informationsverhalten und Vertrauen in den Journalismus – ein innereuropäischer Vergleich (2011-2017) [Right-wing populism, political information use, and trust in journalism - a European comparison, 2011-2017]
    Politischer Journalismus im Ländervergleich vor dem Hintergrund des Rechtspopulismus - Section Panel der Fachgruppe Politische Kommunikation auf der Jahrestagung der SGKM 2018
  • 06/04/2018 , Vitznau
    Josef Seethaler: 
    Medienwandel - Öffentlichkeitswandel - Wandel der Demokratie [Media change - change of the public sphere - change of democracy]
    Vitznauer Gespräche des Instituts für Kommunikationswissenschaft und Medienforschung der Universität Zürich (IKMZ): Medien- und Öffentlichkeitswandel | Forum 3
  • 06/04/2018 , Vitznau
    Josef Seethaler: 
    Bericht der Fokusgruppe "Integration & Vielfalt" [Report of the focus group "Integration & Diversity"]
    Vitznauer Gespräche des Instituts für Kommunikationswissenschaft und Medienforschung der Universität Zürich (IKMZ): Medien- und Öffentlichkeitswandel | Forum 3
  • 21/09/2017 , Vienna
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Changing Media – Changing Democracy, or: Changing Democracy – Changing Media?
    Digital Media, Political Polarization and Challenges to Democracy: An International Symposium
  • 06/04/2017 , Vitznau
    Josef Seethaler: 
    Medien und Öffentlichkeit in historischer Perspektive [The media and the public sphere in historical perspective]
    Veranstaltungszyklus "Medien- und Öffentlichkeitswandel"
  • 24/11/2016 , Barcelona
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Citizen participation, social media use, and the shift in political trust: Results from a European survey
    Regional Conference of the World Association of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR): "Political Trust in Contemporary Representative Democracies"
  • 05/08/2016 , Minneapolis
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Social media and civic engagement: Results from a European survey
    99th Annual Convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC)
  • 19/07/2016 , York
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Europe's youth on the move: Online communication, civic engagement, and connective action
    Contemporary Political Youth Culture & Communication Symposium
  • 21/10/2015 , Phoenix, Arizona
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    The long way from technical to social connectivity: Exploring the digital divide in 15 European countries
    Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide. 2015 International Conference
  • 03/10/2015 , Rovinj
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Change in media use - Change in political participation? A cross-national comparative study
    "Communication, Democracy and Digital Technology" - Conference of the International Political Science Association (IPSA)
  • 16/07/2015 , Montreal
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Can social networks help to foster participatory democracy? A comparative analysis in 15 European countries
    2015 Annual Conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR)
  • 24/04/2015 , St. Petersburg
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Putting social media in context: The interconnections between media systems, social media use, and political participation
    3rd International Conference: Comparative media studies in today's world: Social media in various socio-political contexts
  • 24/01/2015 , Bamberg
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Social Media und politische Beteiligung: Zur Notwendigkeit einer theoretischen Neubestimmung des Partizipationsbegriffs [Social media and political participation: Towards a refined theoretical framework for participation]
    Jahrestagung der Fachgruppe Rezeptions- und Wirkungsforschung in der DGPuK 2015
  • 06/11/2014 , Wien
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Wie soziale Online-Netzwerke politische Beteiligung verändern [How social online networks change political participation]
    Medienwandel - Wandel der Demokratie? Das demokratische Potenzial der Social Media [Changing Media - Changing Democracy? Exploring the Democratic Potential of Social Media]
  • 12/04/2014 , Zurich
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Von Kollektivität zu Konnektivität? Soziale Medien und politische Beteiligung [From collectivity tp connectivity? Social media and political participation]
    40. Jahrestagung der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Kommunikations- und Medienwissenschaft (SGKM) [Paper presented at the 2014 Annual Conference of the Swiss Association of Media and Communication Research (SACM)]
  • 18/12/2013 , Klagenfurt
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    From Collectivity to Connectivity? Social Media and Political Behavior
  • 18/10/2013 , Klagenfurt
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Von kollektivem zu konnektivem Handeln? Medienwandel und politische Folgen [From collective to connective action? Media change and political consequences]
    Kommunikationswissenschaftliche Tage 2013 "Changing Communications II"

Popular Publications

Popular Publications

  • Beaufort, M., & Seethaler, J. (2017). Von neuen Formen der Kommunikation zu neuen Formen der Partizipation - oder umgekehrt? [From new forms of communication to new forms of participation - or vice versa?]. Texte: Öffentlich-Rechtliche Qualität Im Diskurs, 20, 24-35. Retrieved from
  • Seethaler, J. (2015). "Wenn der Tratsch in Hass umschlägt, ist Feuer am Dach" [Interview]. Salzburger Nachrichten.

Popular Talks

Popular Talks

  • 04/09/2019 , Vienna
    Josef Seethaler: 
    Partizipation in einer mediatisierten Gesellschaft II [Participation in a mediatized society II]
    11. Wiener Seminar für Mitarbeiter/innen der Österreich-Bibliotheken des Bundesministeriums für Europa, Integeation und Äußeres
  • 02/07/2019 , Vienna
    Josef Seethaler: 
    The digital gap
    #scvie19 - stARTcamp Wien
  • 26/06/2019 , Vienna
    Josef Seethaler: 
    Partizipation in einer mediatisierten Gesellschaft I [Participation in a mediatized society I]
    10. Wiener Seminar für Mitarbeiter/innen der Österreich-Bibliotheken des Bundesministeriums für Europa, Integeation und Äußeres
  • 07/12/2017 , Wien
    Josef Seethaler: 
    Journalismus und Partizipation [Journalism and participation]
    Lernlabor Audience Engagement am fjum - Forum Journalismus und Medien
  • 22/03/2017 , St. Wolfgang
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Digitale Solidarität und Partizipation
    "...und raus bist DU!? Solidarität in der Erwachsenenbildung" Seminar des Bundesinstituts für Erwachsenenbildung (bifeb)
  • 15/08/2016 , Wien
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Vielbeschworene Solidarität - die Einheit in der Vielfalt finden [Interview mit Juliane Nagiller zu Social Media und Partizipation]
    Radiokolleg (Ö1)
  • 15/01/2016 , Wien
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Verdrossen, aber politisch: Social Media-Engagement ist kein Lippenbekenntnis [Interview mit Raffael Fritz]
    Digital leben
  • 23/05/2014 , Innsbruck
    Josef Seethaler,  Maren Beaufort: 
    Auswirkungen von Social Media auf politische Partizipation [impact of social media use on political participation]
    Medien in der Postdemokratie