Preconference ICA 2021

Comparative perspectives on negativity, incivility, and toxic talk in political discussions

Lukas P. Otto (UvA, ASCoR), Sanne Kruikemeier (UvA, ASCoR), Sophie Lecheler (U of Vienna), & Alessandro Nai (UvA, ASCoR)

Politics without conflict does not exist. However, more often than not, political discussions – especially in an online environment – are characterized by occurrences of incivility, toxic appeals, aggressiveness, rudeness, or blatant intolerance. Importantly, when it comes to political communication and discussions online, citizens feel that social and cultural norms of conversation are violated. Despite a deep embeddedness of these conversational norms within culture, political circumstances, technical developments, or group norms, comparative aspects of negative political discussions and communication are often overlooked. What is unacceptable in one society, on a certain platform, in a certain political party, can be a lively discussion elsewhere.

Against this backdrop, this pre-conference will focus on comparative aspects of negative political communication online that break the established rules of conversation. We do not only focus on one specific aspect of negative communication, but rather aim at covering as many aspects as possible. This preconference invites theoretical and empirical contributions that focus on one or more comparative aspects on different forms of negative political communication, including but not limited to:

  • The comparison of cultures, countries, regions, and languages. Since confrontational, negative and uncivil communication is deeply connected with cultural norms, the usage, perception, and effects of these kinds of communication might also differ.
  • Different platforms and online spaces of communication carry different characteristics that could be crucial to the usage, perception, and effects of negative political communication. Platforms differ in terms of population, anonymity, network-aspects, interactivity and more. These differences might account for variations in negative political communication behavior.
  • Time-related aspects might be crucial for the usage, perception, and effects of negative political communication behaviors. It remains an open question whether negative phenomena in political communication are on the rise (following the advent of the internet and social media) or not; but also whether major forces and exogenous events (such as the occurrence of national elections or the presence of social and political unrest) can fuel negativity in (online) discussions.
  • Finally, social norms do not only differ across countries and cultures, but also across different societal groups – be it older vs. younger citizens, partisans vs. non-partisans or any other politically meaningful societal group.

Thus, the goal of this preconference is to take an interdisciplinary, international, comparative and open perspective on negative forms of political communication. Simultaneously, we aim to build a future research agenda by gathering the evidence in the field, but also point at blind spots that lead to future research strands. Although articles making an empirical contribution are encouraged, we are also open to systematic reviews, theoretical foundational pieces, and critical takes on existing approaches.

How to participate

Please send an abstract of not more than 600 words to Lukas Otto (l.p.otto@uva.nl). Deadline for submissions is January 21, 2021. Successful applicants will be notified not later than February 20th. You will be asked to circulate a paper draft before the conference to facilitate a lively discussion.

The conference will take place at May 27, 2021, before the start of the 2021 ICA online conference. Of course, this will also be an online-only conference. However, we will do our best to realize live sessions and academic exchange in convenient slots for different time zones. Furthermore, we are actively considering collecting the best contributions to the preconference into a special issue. More information will be discussed in due time.