Dissertation Abstracts

Personal Web Applications in the Service of Knesset Members: Personal Israeli Politics in the Digital Era

Author: Haleva-Amir, Sharon , sharoni.haleva.amir@gmail.com
Department: Faculty of Law
University: University of Haifa, Israel
Supervisor: Prof. Niva Elkin-Koren
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: Hebrew

Keywords: Israeli Politics , e-Democracy , e-Politics , Social Networks
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Sociotechnics, Sociological Practice , Communication, Knowledge and Culture

Abstract

My dissertation deals with the usage of web applications, mainly personal websites, by members of Knesset (henceforth – MKs). The research aims at analyzing the ways in which technology enables MKs accomplish their various tasks and whether it influences the nature of their office, in the twenty first century. The study is conceptually situated in the discipline of e-Democracy, which concerns the mutual connections between Internet and democracy. Methodologically, it combines an unobtrusive method (multi layered web content analysis) and a subjective method, examining the studied situation from the informants' (MKs and their staff) point of view, using interviews and open questionnaires. Integrating both techniques revealed real gaps between informants' perceptions of the online activity goals and the features and contents actually available on sites.
Findings demonstrate a significant shift from personal websites and blogs usage to social media applications usage. Neither gender nor age has any effect on usage rates. Conversely, political aspects and position parameters influence usage scope as well as usage patterns.
Analyzing sites' content categories reveals that MKs use their sites mainly to report the public while presenting themselves in an optimal manner. Sites increase the transparency level of the parliamentary activity and answer the public need of accountability; but for those MKs, sites are yet another platform through which they can present themselves in a positive manner, while fully controlling the uploaded contents. Utilizing the sites to truly engage the public which was the initial rational for using the web as a political platform, is hardly manifested, as sites seldom serve as a two-way interactive platform. Israeli online politics does not create a new political reality but rather reflects an existing political reality. Nevertheless, MKs online activity changes, in effect, their daily schedule, as for most of them online activity is an important indispensible daily chore. The study does not recommend setting an overall mandatory regulative frame for online political activity and supports voluntary online political activity independent of formal state platform.
Politics may not have changed but civil society has changed for the good and empowered due to online politics.

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