Associate Professor - ON LEAVE
- School of International Affairs
- Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy
- Technology Policy and Assessment Center
Dr. Michael L. Best is associate professor, on leave, at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology where he directs the Technologies and International Development Lab. Best directs the United Nations University Institute on Computing and Society (UNU-CS) in Macau SAR, China. Professor Best is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the widely read journal, Information Technologies and International Development. He holds a Ph.D. from MIT and has served as director of Media Lab Asia in India and head of the eDevelopment group at the MIT Media Lab.
- Africa (Sub-Saharan)
- Asia (East)
- Asia (South)
- Latin America and Caribbean
- Inequality and Social Justice
- International Development
- INTA-2040: Sci,Tech & Int'l Affairs
- INTA-4803: Special Topics
- INTA-8010: IAST Ph.D. Proseminar
- Twitter Democracy: Policy versus identity politics in three emerging African democracies.
Social media offers new ways for citizens to discuss and debate politics and engage in the democratic process. These online systems could be places for rich policy relevant debate, which is favored by scholars of deliberative democracy. Alternatively, social media might be a platform for an identity driven form of political discourse that is routinely scorned by scholars of democracy. To examine these two possibilities, we analyzed tweets sent during three national elections, the defining participatory process of democracy. Our dataset includes over 760,000 tweets gathered during national elections in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya from 2011 to 2013. In order to analyze the degree to which Twitter was being used for policy relevant discussion we developed policy term sets through a text analysis of the major political party platforms. To examine the amount of discourse focused on identity issues we created identity term sets based upon national religious, tribal, and regional differences. In Nigeria, where divisive identity politics feed violence and electoral misconduct, discussion of tribe, region, and religion dominate mentions of platform policies. In contrast Ghanaians, who enjoy the most robust democracy of the three countries, were seven times more likely to discuss policy issues rather than identity. Kenyan democracy is still undergoing consolidation, and tweets again reflect this, with almost as many tweets devoted to tribal identity as campaign policy. These findings suggest that social media discussions may echo the state of democratic deepening found in a country during its national elections.