Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Media and Communication


Dr Todd Graham

University Academic Fellow in Media and Communication

0113 343 9945

Clothworkers' Building North, Room G.23b

PhD (University of Amsterdam, ASCoR), MA (w/Honors, University of Amsterdam, ASCoR), BA (University of Rhode Island)

Todd is a University Academic Fellow at the School of Media and Communication. His main research interests are i) the use of new media in representative democracies; ii) the intersections between popular culture and formal politics; iii) online election campaigns; iv) social media and journalism; v) forms of online deliberation and political talk; vi) online civic engagement; vii) public sphere and deliberative democratic theory.


Todd Graham is a University Academic Fellow at the School of Media and Communication. He completed his PhD at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam, in 2009 under the supervision of Kees Brants and Nick Jankowski. His dissertation ‘What’s Wife Swap Got to Do with It? Talking politics in the Net-Based Public Sphere’ focuses on online deliberation, popular culture and the public sphere. He worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Groningen (RuG) from 2009-2012. In 2012, he took his first Lectureship at the RuG before being promoted to Senior Lecture in 2015. Todd received the European Journal of Communication Article of the Year Award 2011 for his research article: Reality TV as a trigger of everyday political talk in the net-based public sphere. He has held research grants from the Gratama Foundation and Melbourne Networked Society Institute and multiple (endowed) International Visiting Scholar posts. In 2016, for example, he was a visiting research fellow at the University of Göttingen and the University of Melbourne. Todd’s work has been published in top international journals across the field of communication and politics, including: New Media & Society, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, European Journal of Communication, International Journal of Press/Politics, Information, Communication & Society, Journalism Practice, Journal of Information Technology and Politics and Digital Journalism. Todd’s main research interests are i) the use of new media in representative democracies; ii) the intersections between popular culture and formal politics; iii) online election campaigns; iv) social media and journalism; v) forms of online deliberation and political talk; vi) online civic engagement; vii) public sphere and deliberative democratic theory.

Research Interests

My background is in political communication and journalism. My research interests include: participatory journalism; journalism and social media; user-generated content; journalism and the public sphere; popular culture; infotainment; (new) media and democracy; political communication; online deliberation and forms of political talk; online election campaigns; life/lifestyle politics and civic engagement.



  • Schwanholz J, Graham T & Stoll PT (Ed.) (2017). Managing Democracy in the Digital Age: Internet Regulation, Social Media Use, and Online Civic Engagement. Berlin: Springer. (Accepted)
    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-61708-4

    In light of the increased utilization of information technologies, such as social media and the ‘Internet of Things,’ this book investigates how this digital transformation process creates new challenges and opportunities for political participation, political election campaigns and political regulation of the Internet. Within the context of Western democracies and China, the contributors analyze these challenges and opportunities from three perspectives: the regulatory state, the political use of social media, and through the lens of the public sphere. The first part of the book discusses key challenges for Internet regulation, such as data protection and censorship, while the second addresses the use of social media in political communication and political elections. In turn, the third and last part highlights various opportunities offered by digital media for online civic engagement and protest in the public sphere. Drawing on different academic fields, including political science, communication science, and journalism studies, the contributors raise a number of innovative research questions and provide fascinating theoretical and empirical insights into the topic of digital transformation.

Journal articles

  • Graham T, Jackson D, Wright S (2016). We need to get together and make ourselves heard’: everyday online spaces as incubators of political action. Information Communication and Society. 19(10), 1373-1389.
    DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1094113

  • Graham T, Jackson D, Broersma M (2016). New platform, old habits? Candidates’ use of Twitter during the 2010 British and Dutch general election campaigns. New Media and Society. 18(5), 765-783.
    DOI: 10.1177/1461444814546728, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/113492/

    Twitter has become one of the most important online spaces for political communication practice and research. Through a hand-coded content analysis, this study compares how British and Dutch Parliamentary candidates used Twitter during the 2010 general elections. We found that Dutch politicians were more likely to use Twitter than UK candidates and on average tweeted over twice as much as their British counterparts. Dutch candidates were also more likely to embrace the interactive potential of Twitter, and it appeared that the public responded to this by engaging in further dialogue. We attribute the more conservative approach of British candidates compared to the Netherlands to historic differences in the appropriation of social media by national elites, and differing levels of discipline imposed from the central party machines.

  • Brems C, Temmerman M, Graham T, Broersma M (2016). Personal Branding on Twitter: How employed and freelance journalists stage themselves on social media. Digital Journalism. .
    DOI: 10.1080/21670811.2016.1176534, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/109174/

    Social media are increasingly embedded into everyday communication. This challenges journalism to anticipate the changes that social media trigger in the use and production of (news) media. In this paper, we focus on personal branding on Twitter. Journalists are increasingly encouraged to develop a personal brand on Twitter. This offers them the opportunity to become news and opinion hubs and to increase their “market value”. Erving Goffman’s theatre metaphor is used as an analytical framework in which journalists are conceptualized as performers who are acting on a stage in front of an audience. Through a quantitative content analysis of the tweeting behaviour of 40 employed and freelance journalists, we explore the way they use social media to present themselves and which dilemma’s they are facing. We analyse tweeting behaviour in terms of the types of tweets, functions of tweets and modes of interaction. The quantitative content analysis is supplemented with in-depth interviews with 12 journalists, in order to analyse the reasoning behind their social media habits. Our findings show that journalists particularly struggle with being factual or opinionated, being personal or professional, how to balance broadcasting their message with engagement and how to promote themselves strategically.

  • Wright S, Graham TS, Sun Y, Wang WY, Luo X, Carson A (2016). Analysing everyday online political talk in China: Theoretical and methodological reflections. Communication, Politics & Culture. 49(1), 39-61.

    This article explores the theoretical and methodological challenges of collecting and analysing everyday online political talk in China, and outlines our approach to defining and coding such talk. In so doing, the article is designed to encourage further research in this area, taking forward a new agenda for online deliberation (Wright, 2012a), and supporting this important area of research.

  • Graham T, Jackson D, Wright S (2015). From everyday conversation to political action: Talking austerity in online ‘third spaces. European Journal of Communication. 30(6), 648-665.
    DOI: 10.1177/0267323115595529

  • Graham T, Wright S (2015). A Tale of Two Stories from "Below the Line": Comment Fields at the Guardian. The International Journal of Press/Politics. 20(3), 317-338.
    DOI: 10.1177/1940161215581926, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/113491/

    This article analyzes the nature of debate on “below the line” comment fields at the United Kingdom’s Guardian, and how, if at all, such debates are impacting journalism practice. The article combines a content analysis of 3,792 comments across eighty-five articles that focused on the UN Climate Change Summit, with ten interviews with journalists, two with affiliated commentators, plus the community manager. The results suggest a more positive picture than has been found by many existing studies: Debates were often deliberative in nature, and journalists reported that it was positively impacting their practice in several ways, including providing new story leads and enhanced critical reflection. However, citizen–journalist debate was limited. The results are attributed to the normalization of comment fields into everyday journalism practice, extensive support and encouragement from senior management, and a realization that comment fields can actually make the journalists’ life a little easier.

  • Graham T, Jackson D, Wright S (2015). Zwischen Haushalt und politischer Öffentlichkeit. Forschungsjournal Soziale Bewegungen. 28(2), 65-77.
    DOI: 10.1515/fjsb-2015-0209

    Todd Graham untersucht in seinem Beitrag die Dynamiken politischer Mobilisierung in On­line-Communities, die sich mit Lifestyle-Themen befassen. Der Schwerpunkt liegt auf alltäglichen politischen Gesprächen in solchen Räumen, die nicht explizit als politische Räume zu betrachten sind, und der Frage ob, und wie, politische Gespräche zivilgesellschaftliches Engagement beför­dern. Zur Klärung der Fragestellung hat er in einer Studie über fünf Jahre lang eine inhaltliche Analyse von Postings in den Foren von zwei Online-Lifestyle-Gemeinschaften vorgenommen. Er kommt zu dem Ergebnis, dass das Niveau politischer Mobilisierung höher liegt, als zu erwarten war. Er erklärt dies damit, dass die Themen selbst- statt politikbezogen sind, wodurch eine der Barrieren umgangen wurde, die viele Bürger heutzutage davon abhält, politisch aktiv zu werden, weil sie sich von formaler Politik abgekoppelt fühlen. Online-Communities stellen demnach mehr als nur Gesprächsforen dar, sodass das Verständnis der politischen Rolle vermeintlich nichtpolitischer, alltäglicher Orte erweitert werden muss.

  • Graham T, Wright S (2014). Discursive equality and everyday talk online: The impact of "superparticipants. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. 19(3), 625-642.
    DOI: 10.1111/jcc4.12016

  • Broersma M, Graham T (2013). TWITTER AS A NEWS SOURCE: How Dutch and British newspapers use tweets in their news coverage, 2007-2011. Journalism Practice. 7(4), 446-464.
    DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2013.802481

    Twitter has become a convenient, cheap and effective beat for journalists in search of news and information. Reporters today increasingly aggregate information online and embed it in journalism discourse. In this paper, we analyse how tweets have increasingly been included as quotes in newspaper reporting during the rise of Twitter from 2007 to 2011. The paper compares four Dutch and four British national tabloids and broadsheets, asking if tabloid journalists are relying more on this second-hand coverage than their colleagues from quality papers. Moreover, we investigate in which sections of the paper tweets are included and what kinds of sources are quoted. Consequently, we present a typology of the functions tweets have in news reports. Reporters do include these utterances as either newsworthy or to support or illustrate a story. In some cases, individual tweets or interaction between various agents on Twitter even triggers news coverage. We argue that this new discursive practice alters the balance of power between journalists and sources.

  • Graham T, Broersma M, Hazelhoff K, van 't Haar G (2013). BETWEEN BROADCASTING POLITICAL MESSAGES AND INTERACTING WITH VOTERS: The use of Twitter during the 2010 UK general election campaign. Information Communication and Society. 16(5), 692-716.
    DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2013.785581

  • Broersma M, Graham T (2012). SOCIAL MEDIA AS BEAT: Tweets as news source during the 2010 British and Dutch elections. Journalism Practice. 6(3), 403-419.
    DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2012.663626

    While the newspaper industry is in crisis and less time and resources are available for newsgathering, social media turn out to be a convenient and cheap beat for (political) journalism. This article investigates the use of Twitter as a source for newspaper coverage of the 2010 British and Dutch elections. Almost a quarter of the British and nearly half of the Dutch candidates shared their thoughts, visions, and experiences on Twitter. Subsequently, these tweets were increasingly quoted in newspaper coverage. We present a typology of the functions tweets have in news reports: they were either considered newsworthy as such, were a reason for further reporting, or were used to illustrate a broader news story. Consequently, we will show why politicians were successful in producing quotable tweets. While this paper, which is part of a broader project on how journalists (and politicians) use Twitter, focuses upon the coverage of election campaigns, our results indicate a broader trend in journalism. In the future, the reporter who attends events, gathers information face-to-face, and asks critical questions might instead aggregate information online and reproduce it in journalism discourse thereby altering the balance of power between journalists and sources.

  • Graham T (2012). Beyond "Political" Communicative Spaces: Talking Politics on the Wife Swap Discussion Forum. Journal of Information Technology and Politics. 9(1), 31-45.
    DOI: 10.1080/19331681.2012.635961

  • Graham T, Hajru A (2011). Reality TV as a trigger of everyday political talk in the net-based public sphere. European Journal of Communication. 26(1), 18-32.
    DOI: 10.1177/0267323110394858

  • Graham T (2010). Talking politics online within spaces of popular culture: The case of the Big Brother forum. Javnost - The Public. 17(4), 25-42.
    DOI: 10.1080/13183222.2010.11009039

    Talking politics online is not bound to spaces dedicated to politics, particularly the everyday political talk crucial to the public sphere. The aim of this article is to move beyond such spaces by examining political talk within a space dedicated to popular culture. The purpose is to see whether a reality TV discussion forum provides both the communicative space, content, and style for politics that both extends the public sphere while moving beyond a conventional notion. The central question is whether it fulfils the requirements of rationality and deliberation. The analysis also moves beyond a formal notion by investigating how expressive speech acts interact and influence the more traditional elements of deliberation. The findings indicate that nearly a quarter of the postings from the Big Brother sample were engaged in political talk, which was often deliberative in nature. It was a communicative space where the use of expressives both facilitated and impeded such talk.

  • Graham T (2008). Needles in a haystack: A new approach for identifying and assessing political talk in non-political discussion forums. Javnost - The Public. 15(2), 17-36.
    DOI: 10.1080/13183222.2008.11008968

    Talking politics online is not exclusively reserved for politically-orientated discussion forums, particularly the everyday political talk crucial to the public sphere. People talk politics just about anywhere online from reality TV discussion forums to numerous other forum genres. Thus, the need to tap into those discussions is important if our aim is to provide a more comprehensive overview of the online discursive landscape. However, widening our scope of analysis presents us with a new set of difficulties, namely, how do we identify political talk within the vast pool of threads and postings, and how do we assess such talk in light of the public sphere, while at the same time, taking into account its informal nature.The aim of this article is to tackle these questions by presenting a methodological approach, which attempts to detect, describe, and assess political talk in non-political discussion forums.

  • Graham T, Witschge T (2003). In search of online deliberation: Towards a new method for examining the quality of online discussions. Communications. 28(2), 173-204.


  • Graham T, Jackson D, Broersma M (2017). The Personal in the Political on Twitter: Towards a Typology of Politicians’ Personalized Tweeting Behaviours. In Schwanholz J, Graham T & Stoll PT (Ed.) Managing Democracy in the Digital Age: Internet Regulation, Social Media Use, and Online Civic Engagement()Berlin: Springer. (Accepted)
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/115739/

    The concept of personalization has increasingly become central to our understanding of political communication especially during election time. With the rise of social media platforms such as Twitter, which places more focus on individual politicians and opens up more direct links with voters, the opportunities for more personalized campaigning have been expanded. Although studies of personalization in politics and online campaigning have been popular avenues of research in the last 20 years, an empirically driven understanding of the nexus between the two is still underdeveloped. In this chapter, through an analysis of the ‘personal’ tweeting behaviours of British and Dutch candidates in the 2010 general election campaigns, we attempt to understand how politicians disclose aspects of their private life through social media: which aspects these are and how they are intermingled with the ‘political’.

  • Schwanholz J, Graham T (2017). Digital Transformation: New Opportunities and Challenges for Democracy?. In Schwanholz J, Graham T & Stoll PT (Ed.) Managing Democracy in the Digital Age: Internet Regulation, Social Media Use, and Online Civic Engagement()Berlin: Springer. (Accepted)
    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-61708-4_1

  • Brands BJ, Graham T, Broersma M (2017). Social Media Sourcing Practices: How Dutch Newspapers Use Tweets in Political News Coverage. In Schwanholz J, Graham T & Stoll PT (Ed.) Managing Democracy in the Digital Age: Internet Regulation, Social Media Use, and Online Civic Engagement()Berlin: Springer. (Accepted)
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/115929/

    If you are a frequent reader of newspapers, you might have come across articles in which tweets are directly cited as sources. This practice by journalists has become common since the emergence of Twitter as one of the most popular social media platforms, raising questions over the impact it is having on sourcing practices and the journalist-source relation. In this chapter, we investigate this phenomenon by analysing how Dutch journalists use Twitter as a source in political news coverage at four national dailies. We ask how, and to what extent, Twitter is contributing to the agenda-building process – the process by which news organisations and journalists determine what to cover. Through the use of a content analysis, we track and analyse the citation of tweets by focusing on the type of actors cited; the function cited tweets served in the news stories; the nature of the tweets cited (e.g. factual, opinion); and finally, the dominant quoting practices. Our findings contribute to our understanding of the ways in which the use of Twitter shapes political news coverage.

  • Jackson D, Wright S, Graham TS (2017). Everyday online conversation, emotion and political action. In Reilly P, Veneti A & Atanasova D (Ed.) Politics, Protest, Emotion: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. A Book of Blogs(97-103)Sheffield, UK: Information School, University of Sheffield.

  • Sun Y, Graham T, Broersma M (2016). Environmental Talk in the Chinese Green Public Sphere: A Comparative Analysis of Daily Green-Speak Across Three Chinese Online Forums. In Schwanholz J, Graham T & Stoll PT (Ed.) Managing Democracy in the Digital Age: Internet Regulation, Social Media Use, and Online Civic Engagement()Berlin: Springer. (Accepted)
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/116052/

    This paper investigates online talk about environmental issues by average Chinese citizens in what has been labeled the “green public sphere” (Yang & Calhoun, 2007, p.212). It compares online everyday talk on three different platforms to explore if this effectively involves the general public in Chinese environmental politics. By analyzing forums ranging from an explicitly political, a mixed (overlapping between political and non-political realms) to a non-political forum, we found that such talk in Chinese digital spaces does not necessarily lead to the formation of public debate in the Habermasian sense. Rather, it gives rise to new forms of civic engagement to change and cope with the deteriorating environmental situation. It expands the green public sphere to the very grassroots level, in which average citizens are the main actors to produce green discourses, instead of the authorities, elites, corporations and social organizations. A range of non-deliberative acts help to make personal issues into public issues, transform ordinary citizens into engaged publics, and fostering a sense of community among participants, as a new way of being political.

  • Wright S, Graham T, Jackson D (2016). Third Space, Social Media and Everyday Political Talk. In Bruns A, Enli G, Skogerbø E, Larsson AO & Christensen C (Ed.) The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics(74-88)New York: Routledge.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/109173/

    Theoretical and empirical research into online politics to date has primarily focused on what might be called formal politics or on how activists and social movements utilize social media to pursue their goals. However, in this chapter, we argue that there is much to be gained by investigating how political talk and engagement emerges in everyday, online, lifestyle communities: i.e. third spaces. Such spaces are not intended for political purposes, but rather – during the course of everyday talk – become political through the connections people make between their everyday lives and the political/social issues of the day. In this chapter, we develop a theoretically informed argument for research that focuses on everyday informal political talk in online third spaces.

  • Broersma M, Graham T (2016). Tipping the Balance of Power: Social Media and the Transformation of Political Journalism. In Bruns A, Enli G, Skogerbø E, Larsson AO & Christensen C (Ed.) The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics(89-103)New York: Routledge.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/109176/

  • Graham T (2015). Everyday political talk in the Internet- based public sphere. In Coleman S & Freelon D (Ed.) Handbook of Digital Politics(247-263)Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.
    DOI: 10.4337/9781782548768.00024, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/113484/

    Ever since the advent of the Internet, political communication scholars have debated its potential to facilitate and support public deliberation as a means of revitalizing and extending the public sphere. Much of the debate has focused on the medium’s potential in offering communicative spaces that transcend the limitations of time, space and access (and the traditional mass media)m whereby open communication, deliberation and exchange of information among the public can prosper. Following the initial enthusiasm over the possibilities of a more interactive and deliberative electorate, along with the cyber-pessimist response, a growing body of rich empirical research into online deliberation has arisen in its wake. In search of online deliberation, scholars have conducted a broad range of investigations, developing several prominent directions in the field. One popular line of research has been the study of informal political talk through the lens of public sphere ideals.The aim of this chapter is to detail and discuss this growing body of research and its significance. I begin by discussing what scholars mean by political talk and why it is thought to be essential for (a more deliberative) democracy. Following this, the major findings to date are set out, focusing specifically on three of the most common features of political talk investigated by scholars in the field. I discuss scholarly disagreement and offer my thoughts and critical reflection on the topic. Finally, the chapter ends with several recommendations for future research into informal political talk in the Internet-based public sphere.

  • Graham T, Wright S (2014). Analysing ‘Super-Participation’ in Online Third Spaces. In Cantijoch M, Gibson R & Ward S (Ed.) Analyzing Social Media Data and Web Networks(197-218)Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
    DOI: 10.1057/9781137276773_8, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/109178/

    This chapter focuses on our attempts to overcome the methodological challenges of 'super-participation' in online discussion forums, focusing on the participatory patterns and discursive activity of what we call 'super-participants'. Our principal contribution in this area (Graham and Wright 2013) focuses on the www.moneysavingexpert.com (MSE) discussion forum. It is one of the largest forums in the United Kingdom and has received nearly 30 million posts. Until recently, the forum (and broader website and email list) was owned by the finance guru and campaigner Martin Lewis. We used a large-scale quantitative content analysis that covered all of the users, alongside a detailed qualitative, hand-coded content analysis. While smaller in scale, this still required a large number of posts to be analysed, and this raises its own challenges. In this chapter, we first discuss why active minorities (that is, super-participants) are typically framed negatively by reviewing the normative frameworks commonly used to analyse online political talk. Second, we present a typology for identifying and categorising super-participants, a framework that can be used to conceptualise super-participation in online forums. Third, we explain and describe the methods that we developed for analysing super-participants. As relative novices to the scraping of data, we explain some of the challenges that we faced, as well as how we eventually overcame them. We then outline our qualitative approach and provide some methodological insight for future research on super-participation. Finally, we discuss the methodological implications of our work.

  • Graham T, Broersma M, Hazelhoff K (2013). Closing the gap?: Twitter as an instrument for connected representation. In Scullion R, Gerodimos D, Jackson D & Lilleker D (Ed.) The Media, Political Participation and Empowerment(71-88)New York: Routledge.
    DOI: 10.4324/9780203381113

    In this chapter, we present a typology of the tweeting behaviour of candidates as a means of analysing the extent to which politicians are harnessing the potential of social media to actively interact with their constituents. Our research, which included content analysis of tweets (n = 13,637) from all the Conservative and Labour tweeting candidates during the 2010 U.K. General Election, focused on four aspects of tweets: type (normal post, interaction, retweet, retweet with comment); interaction (with, e.g. a politician, journalist, citizen); function (e.g. updating, promoting, advice giving, debating); and topic. Additionally, a qualitative reading on the use of personal tweets was carried out. By examining candidates’ tweeting behaviour, we show that British politicians still mainly use Twitter as a unidirectional form of communication. They are neglecting the possibility this social network offers for, what we call, connected representation.

  • Graham T (2013). Talking back, but is anyone listening? Journalism and comment fields. In Peters C & Broersma M (Ed.) Rethinking Journalism: Trust and Participation in a Transformed News Landscape(114-128)London: Routledge.
    DOI: 10.4324/9780203102688

    Over the past decade, particularly with the introduction of Web 2.0 technologies, we have seen an increase in the popularity of social media such as forums, weblogs and wikis and social media applications and services such as Facebook and YouTube along with the proliferation of open publishing initiatives and social news websites. This vibrant upsurge of participatory values and practices can be understood as a sign of a general cultural trend whereby audiences increasingly become active media producers. This participatory culture challenges the top-down model of journalism by allowing anyone to post and upload content without formal editorial moderation or filtering processes, while the boundaries between professional journalists and their audience begin to blur as audiences actively increase their control and involvement over their news consumption, becoming both consumers and creators of media content. Citizens are no longer passive receivers but rather are actively engaged in (re)creating, challenging, questioning, correcting, and personalizing news media. As a means of combating revenue loss and reconnecting with their audiences, mainstream news media throughout Western democracies have begun tapping into this digital media culture by increasingly adopting participatory forms of journalism. However, these new forms have yet to be study in any great detail. The empirical research that does exist focuses mostly on gauging the opinions, motives and perceptions of editors/journalists, mapping the current trends and forms, and ethnographic studies on newsroom practices. What is needed to take this body of research further is an analysis of the content. This chapter moves in this direction by addressing the question of whether user-generated content within mainstream news media today is improving the quality journalism, i.e. enhancing the public sphere. One of the most popular forms of user-generated content within mainstream news media is comment fields attached to news articles. Such spaces provide citizens the opportunity to react, debate, and comment on articles (or blogs) written by journalists. The focus of this chapter is on how people are engaging in these spaces. The aim is two fold. First, it is to see to what extent such spaces are facilitating deliberative communicative practices crucial to the public sphere. Are comment fields opening up spaces for citizen deliberation? Second, it is to see whether this type of user-generated content is improving the quality of journalism. Are citizens bringing new ideas, perspectives, facts, and sources to journalistic content? In order to address these questions, postings from comment fields were examined and assessed within the British online newspaper the Guardian. The sample consisted of 3,169 postings (comments) taken from all those articles/blogs (by Guardian journalists) on the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen during a two week period in December 2009. A case study design with normative and descriptive characteristics was utilized. A content analysis was employed as the primary instrument for examination. The coding scheme focused first on gauging the type and level of interaction. Are participants engaging with the content, journalist, or fellow participants, and are such spaces hosting critical-reciprocal exchange between participants? Second, the analysis identified the purpose of the postings; i.e. are participants providing an opinion/argument, posing a question, providing information, calling for action, and/or degrading or acknowledging another? Finally, the analysis focused on the level to which such spaces bring new and alternative opinions, arguments, facts, and sources to the article, to journalism.

  • Graham T (2011). What’s reality television got to do with it? Talking politics in the net-based public sphere. In Brants K & Voltmer K (Ed.) Political Communication in Postmodern Democracy: Challenging the Primacy of Politics(248-264)Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
    DOI: 10.1057/9780230294783_15, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/111458/

    The aim of this chapter is to see whether online discussion forums dedicated to popular culture (reality TV) provide a communicative space, content and style for politics that extends the public sphere. Given their typically casual, chatty and frivolous nature, we might assume that political talk doesn’t emerge in such spaces, and if it does, it would fall well short of the type of talk crucial to the public sphere. To what extent does political talk emerge in such spaces? If so, do such forums fulfil the requirements of rationality and ‘decent’ deliberation? Given the nature of the forums, the analysis moves beyond a formal notion of deliberation by also taking into account the use of expressive speech acts: emotion, humour and acknowledgements. What role do ‘expressives’ play within online political talk and how do they impact the normative conditions of deliberation? Moreover, comparing these spaces with a space dedicated to high politics – the Guardian political discussion forum – allows us to see whether, as critics would expect, deliberative talk is taking place in the one and emotional and irrational talk in the other.

  • Graham TS (2010). What’s Wife Swap have to do with it? Talking politics online. In De Cindio F, Macintosh A & Peraboni C (Ed.) From e-Participation to Online Deliberation(101-116)Leeds: University of Leeds.
    DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.1610.7688

    Talking politics online is not exclusively reserved for those spaces dedicated to politics, particularly the everyday political talk crucial to the public sphere. However, past net-based public sphere research has focused mostly on political spaces thereby neglecting an array of other genres. The aim of this article is to move beyond politically oriented communicative spaces by investigating political talk within the British reality TV discussion forum Wife Swap. The purpose is to see whether a forum dedicated to reality TV provides the communicative space, content, and style for politics that extends the public sphere. The central question is whether it fulfils the requirements of rationality and ‘decent’ deliberation. Moreover, the analysis moved beyond a formal notion by investigating how expressives influence the more traditional elements of deliberation. The findings revealed that Wife Swap participants engaged in political talk that was often deliberative. Moreover, it was a space where the use of expressives played a key role in enhancing such talk.

  • Boddin F, Graham TS, Schmitt L, Zoetanya S (2007). A snapshot from the European educational landscape. In Carpentier N, Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt P, Nordenstreng K, Hartmann M, Vihalemm P, Cammaerts B et al. (Ed.) Media technologies and democracy in an enlarged Europe(3, 347-356) THE RESEARCHING AND TEACHING COMMUNICATION SERIES. Tartu, Estonia: Tartu University Press.
    DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4320.2727

    In this chapter, we present a snapshot of the European doctoral landscape based on the reflections of 40 doctoral students gathered from throughout the European Union for the ECREA Doctoral Summer School. One of this school’s main objectives is to ‘generate a wide picture of the international landscape of communication and media research’ (ECREA Young Scholars Network, 2007) while providing a platform for doctoral students to participate within their field, connect to diverse academic cultures, and receive critical feedback on their individual work.

Conference papers

  • Graham T ‘The use of expressives in online political talk: Impeding or facilitating the normative goals of deliberation?’. In Tambouris E, Macintosh A & Glassey O (Eds.), Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)Springer.. 6229 LNCS, 26-41. 26-41 Second International Conference on eParticipation (IFIP), Lausanne, Switzerland, 29/08/2010 - 02/09/2010
    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-15158-3_3

    Net-based public sphere researchers have questioned whether the internet presents the public sphere with a new opportunity for the development of public spaces where free, equal and open deliberation among citizens can flourish. However, much of the research has operationalized a formal notion of deliberation thereby neglecting the expressive nature of everyday political talk. This study moved beyond a formal notion by also investigating the use of expressives within The Guardian (UK) political discussion forum. A content analysis was employed as the primary instrument for examination. Additional textual analyses were conducted on the use of expressives. The findings suggest that with the exception of humour expressives tended to impede political talk rather than facilitating it. © 2010 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

PhD & Postdoctoral Supervision

PhD Supervision:
Competing discourses in the Chinese public sphere: A discourse analysis of three internet incidents in China, Yu Sun, University of Groningen (2013-2017)

Other Supervision:
Research Assistant Program (RAP), University of Groningen, 2016, Lena Knaudt
Research Assistant Program (RAP), University of Groningen, 2016, Renske Siebe
Research Assistant Program (RAP), University of Groningen, 2015, Karin Larson
Research Assistant Program (RAP), University of Groningen, 2015, Francesca Giro
Research Assistants Program (RAP), University of Groningen, 2014, Douwe Nijzink
Academy Assistant Program (AAP), University of Groningen, 2013, Andrei Cazacu
Academy Assistant Program (AAP), University of Groningen, 2012, Guido van t’ Haar

PhD Thesis

What’s Wife Swap got to do with it? Talking politics in the net-based public sphere
Author Todd S. Graham
Faculty Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)
University of Amsterdam
Year 2009
Pages 203
Promoter: Professor Kees Brants
Co-promoter: Dr Nick Jankowski
Evaluation Committee: Prof. dr. S. Coleman; Prof. dr. K. Schönbach; Dr. M. van Selm; Prof. dr. C.H. de Vreese; Prof. dr. E.A. van Zoonen
Link: http://dare.uva.nl/

The aim of this study then is to move beyond politically oriented discussion forums by also examining the communicative practices of participants within fan-based forums. The focus is on how participants talk politics in online informal discussion forums. By informal discussion forums, I am referring to those forums that are not bound to any formal predetermined agendas such as e-consultations or e-juries, but rather to forums who’s primary purpose is to simply provide a communicative space for talk, e.g. fan-based discussion forums, news media message boards, and Usenet newsgroups. By political talk, I am referring to everyday, informal, political conversation carried out freely between participants in these online spaces, which is often spontaneous and lacks any purpose outside the purpose of talk for talk sake, representing the practical communicative form of what Habermas (1984, p. 327) calls communicative action. It is through this type of everyday political talk whereby citizens achieve mutual understanding about the self and each other, and it represents the fundamental ingredient of the public sphere. The purpose of this study first is a normative one; it is to examine the democratic quality of this fundamental ingredient, of the communicative practices of participants within online discussions forums in light of a set of normative conditions of the public sphere. It is also to move beyond a formal notion of deliberation (beyond rationality via argumentation) by providing a more accurate account of how the political emerges in online discussions (particularly within nonpolitically oriented forums), how people actually talk politics in those discussions, and finally, how alternative communicative forms such as humor, emotional comments, and acknowledgements interact and influence the more ‘traditional’ elements of deliberation (e.g. rational-critical debate and reciprocity). Consequently, I present the following three research questions, which are central to this study: To what extent do the communicative practices of online political discussions satisfy the normative conditions of the process of deliberation of the public sphere? What role, if any, do expressives (humor, emotional comments, and acknowledgements) play within online political discussions and in relation to the normative conditions of deliberation? How does political talk emerge in nonpolitically oriented discussion forums? Together, the answers to these questions present a more comprehensive account of online political talk. They seek not only to offer insight into the quality of such talk, but also to provide a better understanding of its expressive and affective nature. Moreover, they seek to improve our understanding of how political talk occurs outside the realm of politically oriented discussion forums, and how it emerges in such communicative spaces. Therefore, in order to answer these questions and provide this insight, I examine and compare political talk within three online discussion forums of the Guardian, Big Brother, and Wife Swap. A comparative study design with normative, descriptive, and explorative characteristics was utilized. A content analysis with both qualitative and quantitative features was employed as the primary instrument for examination. Additional textual and network analyses were carried out to provide more depth to the investigation.

Reviewed by Peter Dalhgren in Communications: The European Journal of Communication Research, Volume 36, Issue 1 (Jan 2011)


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