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New Forms of Political Communication: The Curious Case of George Galloway

The next session in this ICA 2010 pre-conference starts with Andy Ruddock, who begins by focussing on George Galloway as a successful Labour candidate in Britain who appeared on Celebrity Big Brother. He describes this as an interesting new approach to political communication that shows the change in media and communication practices in the new media environment.

Galloway's appearance on Big Brother was a point of controversy; it was described as furthering his ego rather than doing proper political work. However, his counterargument was that this reached a different audience - so how do we read and research this from a communication studies perspective? We need new methods that provide new analyses of randomly occurring data and allow for the indeterminate outcomes of media practices across various domains.

Of 1,000-odd the posts commenting on Galloway's appearance on the BBC site, for example, only a small number made a judgment about the appearance itself, but of those, some 80% opposed it; how might we read this? How do British media users relate to politics - and can the connection of celebrity and reality media and proper electoral politics in this case help us explain these reactions? The move here is beyond mere media effects studies, and breaks down conventional and narrow understandings of political communication; new television genres nurture faith amongst their audiences, and this is what Galloway is able to tap into.

The role of Twitter in the recent UK General Elections is also interesting in this respect; Andy notes the 'Yes Wi-Gan' campaign encouraging users in Wigan to carry out citizen arrests (following through on David Cameron's line 'you are the government') which took on a life of its own. This is a consequence of new media making possible new public connections.

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