ICA Pre-Conference

Qualitative Political Communication Research

2014 International Communication Association Annual Conference

May 22, 2014 – 8:00am-5:00pm 

Department of Communication, University of Washington (room TBD)


Since the publication of W. Lance Bennett and Shanto Iyengar’s 2008 critique of the state of the field, an increasing number of political communication and journalism researchers have cited the need for theory-building aimed at improving our understanding of communication processes in rapidly changing social and technological contexts.  To date, however, scholars have generally overlooked the methodological underpinnings of the current stasis in the field, and have failed to engage seriously with both the limitations of existing tools such as surveys and experiments, as well as the potential benefits of mixed methods and qualitative work more broadly.

This pre-conference will focus on how qualitative research can lead to new analytical and empirical understandings of contemporary political communication processes, from the changing forms of journalism and campaigns to the new platforms and contexts where citizens gather and create political information.  This pre-conference defines ‘qualitative research’ to be rigorous inquiry into political communication processes through an established set of empirical methods including (but not limited to): participant observation, ethnography, interviewing, archival research, and content analysis.  It similarly defines ‘political communication’ broadly to include studies of the institutional (campaigns, legislative bodies, the presidency, the press, civil society organizations) and extra-institutional (movements) actors, events, and processes that constitute democratic life.

We are looking for submissions that are methodologically-oriented or present original research.  For the former, we are looking for articles that discuss possible research designs as well as the potentials for and challenges of qualitative work in political communication.  For example, this can include articles on the value of and issues with conducting fieldwork on campaigns or ethnographic work on how citizens approach political dialogue. For the latter, we are looking for articles that present original research on political communication and utilize qualitative methods.

We hope that this pre-conference will create an identifiable community of diverse and inter-disciplinary scholars working on similar substantive concerns and using a shared set of qualitative methods for empirical inquiry.

Extended abstracts (up to 500 words) should be submitted via email to David Karpf by December 1st.

The organizers – David Karpf, Daniel Kreiss, Matthew Powers, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen – will make decisions on accepted papers by December 20th. Full papers will be due in advance of the pre-conference on April 22, 2014.


School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University

School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Institute of Communications, Roskilde University

Department of Communication, University of Washington

ICA Political Communication Division

ICA Journalism Studies Division

Draft Schedule

8:00 – 8:30am
Arrival and coffee

8:30 – 8:45am
Welcome from the organizers

8:45 – 10:15am

PANEL 1: Reviewed submissions, empirical papers

Melissa Aroncyzk (Rutgers University): “Ethical” Oil and Other Strategies: Understanding the Impact of the Transnational Promotion Class on Political Communication

Genevieve Chacon (Universite Laval): Citizens in the Press Gallery? Constructing Political News in the Digital Era

Jill Hopke (University of Wisconsin-Madison): Unconventionals and the new natural resource movement: an exploration of network structure and tie content

B. Theo Mazumdar, Yasuhito Abe, Bryony Inge, Erin Kamler, Sarah Myers, and Andrea Wenzel (University of Southern California): A narrative, ecological approach to political communication research

DISCUSSANT: Adrienne Russell (University of Colorado at Denver)

PANEL 2: Reviewed submissions, methodological papers

Elizabeth Dubois and Heather Ford (Oxford Internet Institute): Data informed interviews: using digital data to understand multi-modal contexts of political communication

Oren Meyers and Roei Davidson (University of Haifa): Interviewing Interviewers: Collecting and analyzing occupational life histories of journalists

Francisco Seoane Perez (Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha): How to study the European Public Sphere? Network ethnography meets the challenge

Ulrike Klinger, Stephan Rosli, and Otfried Jarren (University of Zurich): Citizen participation and political online communication: A case for qualitative research designs

DISCUSSANT: Kirsten Foot (University of Washington)

Coffee Break

10:30 – 12:00pm
Panel 3: Reviewed submissions, empirical papers

Nils Gustafsson (Lund University): Parley and Party: Social Media, Age, and Intraparty Competition

Mary Joyce (University of Washington-Seattle): Beyond Success and Failure: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Global Digital Activism Campaigns

Jen Schradie (University of California-Berkeley): Labor Unions, Social Media, and Political Ideology: Using the Internet to Reach the Powerful or Mobilize the Powerless?

Elizabeth McKenna and Hahrie Han (University of California-Berkeley and Wellesley College): Groundbreakers: How Obama’s 2.2 Million Volunteers Transformed Field Campaigning in America

Sarah Stonbely (New York University): Objectivity in an Age of Dissensus: Partisanship and political news, 1958-2009


Panel 4: Reviewed submissions, methodological papers

Ericka Menchen-Trevino (Erasmus University Rotterdam): Using Digital Traces as Qualitative Observational Data

Sheetal Agarwal and Michael Barthel (University of Washington-Seattle): Crossing Boundaries in Digital Political Communication: Methodological Reflections on Published Work

Jessica Beyer (University of Washington-Seattle): Studying online communities using comparative, ethnographic case-based research

Kim Christian Schroder (Roskilde University): It looks quantitative, but it is qualitative: an innovative approach to the analysis of citizens’ news media repertoires and forms of political engagement

DISCUSSANT: Sandra González-Bailón (University of Pennsylvania)

12:00 – 12:30pm

12:30 – 1:30pm
Keynote Panel: Qualitative Political Communication Research: Strengths, Limitations, and the Potential for Theory Building

Confirmed Participants: Sandra J. Ball-Rokeach (USC), W. Lance Bennett (University of Washington), Leah Lievrouw (UCLA), Silvio Waisbord (GWU)

1:30 – 2:45pm
Panel 5: Reviewed submissions, empirical papers

Lucas Graves and Magda Konieczna (University of Wisconsin-Madison): Sharing the News: Specialization and Symbiosis in the Emerging Media Ecosystem

Burcu Baykurt (University of Southern California): The making of policy: Ethnography, ANT, and political communication

Hannah Middendorf (Westfalische Wilhelms University): Invisible news providers: a qualitative analysis of the news production process of EU news agency correspondents

Josh Braun (Quinnipiac University): The Traces on the Map: Heterogeneous Engineering and the Path of Content

DISCUSSANT: Rodney Benson (New York University)

Panel 6: Reviewed submissions, methodological papers

Natalia Roudakova (University of California-San Diego): Studying Political Cynicism: Insights from Anthropology

Jessica Baldwin-Philippi (Emerson University): Bringing Qualitative Methods and Action Research to Civic Innovation

Fenwick McKelvey and Jill Piebiak (Concordia University): Porting the Good Campaign: American Campaign Management Software in Canada

Brian McNair, Terry Flew, Stephen Harrington, and Adam Swith (Queensland University of Technology): Public and producer perceptions of political media, journalism, and democracy in Australia

DISCUSSANT: Eric Darras (Sciences Po Toulouse)

2:45 – 3:00pm
Coffee break

3:00 – 4:30pm

Panel 7: Reviewed submissions, empirical papers

Justin Reedy (University of Oklahoma): Political discussion and socialization among Mexican-heritage immigrants: a qualitative study

Kevin Barnhurst and Leopoldina Fortunati (University of Leeds): Good Citizens for a good life

Neta Kligler-Vilenchik (University of Southern California): Wizards, Werewolves and house-elves: an ethnographic examination of political communication in fan spaces

Jing Wang (Rice University): The missing voice of the underrepresented

Lucy Atkinson (University of Texas-Austin): Locating the “Politics” in political consumption

DISCUSSANT: Leah Sprain (University of Colorado-Boulder)

Panel 8: Reviewed submissions, methodological papers

Kjersti Thorbjornsrud and Tine Figenschou (University of Oslo): Backstage media-political elite negotiations: the failure and success of government pitch

Michael Serazio (Fairfield University): Encoding Mediated Politics: the Cultural Production of Campaign Consultants

Matt Carlson (Saint Louis University): What’s All the Fuss About? Metajournalistic discourse as methodological intervention in a time of media upheaval

Oyvind Ihlen, Tine Ustand Figenschou, and AnnaGrondal Larsen (University of Oslo): Behind the Framing Scenes

DISCUSSANT: Nikki Usher (George Washington University)

Closing Comments

Confirmed Participants:

Michael X. Delli Carpini (University of Pennsylvania)

Michael Schudson (Columbia University)