The arrival of the mobile internet era is an innovation of citizens’ participation methods in politics. In the mobile internet environment, citizen’s political participation is an extension of online political participation on the mobile internet, and it is a new form of traditional political participation in the mobile internet era. Mobile internet is a combination of mobile communication and the internet. It refers to the combination of internet technologies, platforms, business models and applications with mobile communication technologies. Because of its unique properties, mobile internet greatly changed the way people participate in politics.
On the one hand, mobile internet can have a positive effect on people’s political participation. Chan et al (2017) examined the roles of mobile and social media news in offline and online political participation. The authors use probability samples from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China to study the political implications of the technologies and demonstrated the indirect relationships between mobile media use and political participation through interpersonal political discussion and political efficacy. The whole study demonstrated the external validity of the O-S-R-O-R model across different political systems. The three political systems they chose are distinctly different, although they do share social norms and values based on a Confucian heritage that emphasizes hierarchal order and social harmony. Taiwan underwent a rapid process of democratization and has a combination of direct elections, a free press and a vibrant online communication environment means. Hong Kong is a liberal and free society, it is semi-democracy because citizens have no vote for the Chief Executive and only half of the legislature is elected through popular vote. China, however, is an authoritarian one-party state where the Chinese government maintains tight control of the news media. Although the political systems in those places are very different, they all show significant correlations between media use and political discussion, as well as political discussion and online participation. In addition, they find that political efficacy was the only other variable that was related to offline participation among all three samples.
On the other hand, mobile internet can also cause negative behaviors of political participants. Groshek et al (2016) studied the nature of how mobile social media make political participants meaner and how the ongoing transition of social media to mobile devices relates to the incivility of user posts. They collected randomized representative Twitter data for controversial issues and try to find to what degree will the mobile or web-based content tends more toward incivility and impoliteness. The analyses found that mobile communication is both more uncivil and impolite than fixed web messages. Not only are user mentions and retweets generally more uncivil and impolite when coupled with mobility, but these affordances are also often related to a greater incidence of tweets being uncivil and impolite. The study points out that online discussion environments can sometimes elicit hostile communication and mobile communication is both more uncivil and impolite than fixed web messages. Online social networks give the community the power to direct insults at whichever users they please, as they don’t need to worry about the retaliation or punishment. In addition, the speed at which messages can be delivered and the relative ease of sending messages can encourage impulsive and sometimes aggressive behaviors. The joint effect of mobility and affordances such as user mentions and retweets was related to statistically significant increases in the likelihood of incivility and impoliteness, most notably at the binary, rather than average, levels. What’s more, the authors find that the disinhibiting effect of online communication can be augmented on mobile devices, which means people behave differently than they behave in fixed ones. Besides that, they find that users tend to filter content on Twitter based on their personal preferences, therefore making it rare for users to be exposed to cross-cutting viewpoints on social networks that are civil and polite. Increased incivility and impoliteness may be cultivated through mobility and mobile devices, signal a great need for more research in this area.
To conclude, the mobile internet is bound to deepen all aspects of society, and therefore promote the continued use of mobile internet. It opened up new channels for civil political participation and national public governance, and overcome many obstacles of traditional political participation. Although negative outcomes like the uncivil and impolite behaviors do occur in mobile internet, it is still undoubtedly a revolutionary force that can push the society to move forward.
Groshek, J., & Cutino, C. (2016). Meaner on mobile: Incivility and impoliteness in communicating contentious politics on sociotechnical networks. Social Media+ Society, 2(4), 2056305116677137.
Chan, M., Chen, H. T., & Lee, F. L. (2017). Examining the roles of mobile and social media in political participation: A cross-national analysis of three Asian societies using a communication mediation approach. new media & society, 19(12), 2003-2021.