Twitter and the transformation of the public sphere: an analysis of asylum seeker narratives in the new media landscape
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 03:00 by Rebecca Mary Dunn
This thesis reports on a research project investigating the different ways that asylum seekers are represented in the Australian print media and social media. The study involves textual analysis of print media reports and social media discussion of asylum seekers over two separate eight-day periods during 2013 and 2014. In light of the discourses conveyed by the analysis of the two types of media, the primary question that the thesis considers is how do the print media and social media contribute to and interact in the public sphere in relation to the issue of asylum seekers? Supplementary key research questions which inform this overarching investigation include whether mainstream print media provides the requisite interrogation of public policy necessary for a healthy public sphere; whether and in what manner social media impacts on public communication about political issues; and whether social media enables members of the public to participate in and disrupt traditional media narratives about asylum seekers. The thesis findings include that the print media discussed asylum seeker policy on the basis of its political merits, and conveyed dominant narratives in relation to asylum seekers constructing them as a problem to be solved on the basis of their illegitimacy, immorality and criminality (consistent with the approach adopted and the narratives conveyed by the two major political parties). By contrast, analysis of the data indicated that social media provided an opportunity to disrupt those dominant narratives and convey alternatives that engaged with the experience of asylum seekers. Against the backdrop of those findings, this thesis considers the respective roles of the mainstream media and social media in the public sphere, drawing on the theories of Jürgen Habermas in relation to the role of the public sphere in a functioning democracy. It concludes that social media enhances the dialogue about politics and society that is ever present in the public sphere, by enabling competing voices to be heard and to engage with one another.