Social media, context collapse and the future of data-driven populism
During the last decades populism has become a mainstream ideology in Western democracies (Mudde, 2004; 2016). At the same time, the popularisation of digital platforms has facilitated the process of political communication while social networks have become one of the preferred communicative tools for political populists to spread their messages. Drawing on the idea that computational technologies allow a particular performance of populism (Baldwin-Philippi, 2019), this paper aims to foster a better theoretical understanding of how innovation in communication technologies contribute to the success of populism. It is argued that the characteristics of populism (a focus on ‘the people’, technological savviness and chameleonism) allow it to overcome most of the obstacles put in place by digital networks. In particular, populism is in an ideal situation to deal with the phenomena of context collapse in social media (Boyd; Marwick, 2011). Finally, it is argued that in the era of personalized politics (Bennett, 2012), populists can make use of real-time data-driven techniques to develop successful communicative strategies addressed to mass audiences in order to construct the populist self in the image and likeness of the people. This form of populism is called data-driven populism.
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