What is the interference of communication technologies in politics?

Daniel do Nascimento e Silva, Professor at the Programa de Pós-Graduação em Linguística, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, SC, Brazil.

Blommaert, in the article “Political discourse in post-digital societies”, published in Trabalhos em Linguística Aplicada (vol. 59, no. 1), proposes that, in order to understand the radical transformations in the ways in which politics is articulated today, it is first necessary to abandon the traditional models of political propaganda. Grounded in modernist imaginations about the workings of language, these traditional models imagined that the transmission of political messages was linear: the message would originate from the politician, who, through the mass media, would relay the message to their audiences. However, the increasing digitalization of life and communication renders this linear model unsustainable (see also BONNIN, 2020; CESARINO, 2020; MALY, 2020; VARIS, 2020).

Neither the senders of the message, nor the media, nor the receivers are the same any longer: Blommaert observes that these roles and channels are much more fragmented, monetized and distributed, which has been afforded by the very architectures of the new media. For example, audiences today are broken down to segments based on demographic data, preferences, and routines harvested by platforms. This allows politicians to tailor messages to accordingly niched audiences, in addition to translating harvested “likes” into economic value. Besides, these niched audiences are increasingly ephemeral and dynamic, and may themselves become producers of political messages. In this “polycentric” view of communication, machines themselves also become producers of political messages. As Ico Maly (2020) suggests, the interaction between politicians, publics and algorithmic actors transforms the very notion of populism. Algorithmic populism thus becomes the “digitally mediated communicative relation between different human and algorithmic actors” (MALY, 2020).

In his article, Blommaert points that this polycentric model requires a new sociology and a new linguistics if we are to understand the new bases for political action. The very public sphere is sectorized and polycentric, composed of audiences that use different normative systems, which explains the fact that (what certain audiences would see as) gaffes, errors, verbal truculence, or indexical icons of little education are valued by other audiences as indicating authenticity and satisfactory change. This process of enregisterment (AGHA, 2007) has turned itself into the political capital that in part responds to the rise of politicians like Trump and Bolsonaro (see SILVA, 2019). Blommaert’s article finally points that the transformation of the forms, infrastructures, and registers in which politics is enacted are a fertile ground for novel analyses of contemporary political discourse.

Watch the video in which Daniel Silva and Jan Blommaert talk about findings in this study


AGHA, A. Language and social relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

BONNIN, J.E. Rethinking populist discourse from Latin America: algorithmic activism and the constitution of a people in Chile. Trab. linguist. apl. [online]. 2020, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 469-490, ISSN: 2175-764X [viewed 29 May 2020]. DOI: 10.1590/01031813680231620200331.Avaliable from: http://ref.scielo.org/hgwk7t

CESARINO, L. How social media affords populist politics: remarks on liminality based on the Brazilian case. Trab. linguist. apl. [online]. 2020, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 404-427, ISSN: 2175-764X [viewed 29 May 2020]. DOI:  10.1590/01031813686191620200410. Avaliable from: http://ref.scielo.org/g7qvv9

MALY, I. Algorithmic populism and the datafication and gamification of the people by Flemish interest in Belgium. Trab. linguist. apl. [online]. 2020, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 444-468. ISSN: 2175-764X [viewed 29 May 2020]. DOI: 10.1590/01031813685881620200409. Avaliable from: http://ref.scielo.org/nttrsr

SILVA, D. Enregistering the nation: Bolsonaro’s populista branding of Brazil. To appear, In: THEODOROPOULOU, I.; WOYDACK, J. (eds). Language and country branding. London: Routledge, 2019.

VARIS, P. Trump tweets the truth: metric populism and media conspiracy. Trab. linguist. apl. [online]. 2020, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 428-443, ISSN: 2175-764X [viewed 29 May 2020]. DOI: 10.1590/01031813683411620200406. Avaliable from: http://ref.scielo.org/7tqqn4

To read the article, access

BLOMMAERT, J. Political discourse in post-digital societies. Trab. linguist. apl. [online]. 2020, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 390-403, ISSN: 2175-764X [viewed 22 May 2020]. DOI: 10.1590/01031813684701620200408. Avaliable from: http://ref.scielo.org/hj526n

External link

Trabalhos em Linguística Aplicada – TLA: www.scielo.br/tla


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

SILVA, D. N. What is the interference of communication technologies in politics? [online]. SciELO in Perspective: Humanities, 2020 [viewed ]. Available from: https://humanas.blog.scielo.org/en/2020/06/05/what-is-the-interference-of-communication-technologies-in-politics/


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation