“IMAGINE WE’RE ALL IN THE LIVING ROOM TALKING ABOUT POLITICS”: ISRAELI WHATSAPP GROUPS DEVOTED TO INFORMAL POLITICAL TALK

Neta Kligler-Vilenchik

Abstract


Theorists point to informal political talk as a way for citizens to deepen their understanding of why the political world matters to them, form opinions, and set the ground for collective action (Barber, 1984). In particular, scholars stress the benefits of cross-cutting conversation, involving exchange of dissimilar perspectives (Delli Carpini, Cook, & Jacobs, 2004). Yet cross-cutting political talk is infused with challenges, that differ based on geographical and cultural context (Mor, Kligler-Vilenchik & Maoz, 2015). Recent technological advances offer innovative contexts for political talk, that shape the nature of conversation possible. One such context is WhatsApp—a highly popular mobile instant messaging application. This project investigates two WhatsApp groups specifically dedicated to informal political talk among a heterogeneous group of Israeli citizens. Through a combination of qualitative content analysis, participant interviews, and participant-observation, this study identifies mediated mechanisms of conflict management and resolution used in the group. The study discusses three such mechanisms: agreeing on what we can agree on, brute force / persistence, and governing the boundaries of acceptable speech. Through identifying these mechanisms, this research seeks to open up the “black box” of political disagreement (usually studied through self-report), while pinpointing the characteristics and potential of the WhatsApp medium as a new and understudied site for heterogeneous political talk.

Keywords


political talk, mobile messaging, hetereogenous publics

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