Research: hashtags widely used in political campaigning in the 2015 elections

Analysing the Finnish Parliamentary elections held on Sunday, 19 April, researchers from the University of Helsinki and Aalto University found that Finnish politicians and political activists had adopted hashtags wholeheartedly in the latest elections. An analysis of nearly two hundred thousand election tweets reveals that hashtags have become a key campaign method in the realm of politics also. Nearly every party in the recent elections had its own campaign hashtag – as did numerous candidates.

“Hashtags were an essential campaign element not only for political parties, but also for many other participants ranging from NGOs to the media,” says researcher Salla-Maaria Laaksonen of the Communication Research Centre CRC. “An inherent aim of the format is to secure citizens’ pledges to vote and to recruit candidates who stand by the campaign’s values.”

Around 16,000 of the tweets with election-related hashtags were written by candidates, while the bulk, or 91% of all the messages, came from other participants: voters, interest groups and media representatives. A total of 938, or nearly 44%, of the MP candidates are present on Twitter. Although the candidates’ Twitter presence doubled from the previous Parliamentary elections, talking about Twitter elections would still be a stretch.

Twitter use varies greatly by region. The bulk of tweets from October to the Thursday before election day were sent by candidates of the Greens and the National Coalition Party in the Helsinki and Uusimaa electoral districts.

A network analysis of tweets and Instagram messages featuring the #vaalit2015 election hashtag reveals that election-related communication took place largely within party groups. Hashtags and users appearing together in messages are displayed close to each other in the network graph.

The National Coalition, the former Prime Minister’s party, and the Centre Party, the favourite heading into the elections, stood out as their own cluster in terms of both topics and participants communicating with one another. The Greens also formed their own clique: while active on Twitter, they converse mainly among themselves. The third clearly distinguishable cluster was unrelated to parties: child and youth organisations and their campaign hashtags sparked active discussions.

The general hashtags (#vaalit2015 and #politiikka) were for the most part accompanied by hashtags referring to political parties. Other common topics included the economy (#talous), work (#työ), security policy (#turpo), voting advice applications (#vaalikoneet) and the social welfare and health care reform (#sote).

Analysis of electoral material to continue

The University of Helsinki’s and Aalto University’s joint project on the 2015 cyberelections (Digivaalit 2015) examines the online attention garnered by topics related to Parliamentary elections. The project participants and the National Library collected election-related content from various social media services from the beginning of the year until election day. The participants will now use the material for more detailed analyses.

In their preliminary analysis, the researchers combed through more than 175,000 tweets sent between 13 November 2014 and 16 April 2015 featuring the hashtags #vaalit2015, #valet2015, #vaalit or #politiikka, or the words vaalit, poliitikko, politiikka or poliitikot (elections, politician, politics or politicians). The candidates’ information and user names were obtained from the public data used in the voting advice applications of the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper and the Finnish Broadcasting Company.

The participants in the 2015 cyberelection project include the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, a joint research institute of Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, as well as the University of Helsinki’s Communication Research Centre, CRC. The project is funded by the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation.

New project funded by the Academy of Finland

The Academy of Finland has decided to fund the two-year project “Co-Design of Digital Storytelling System with Geographic Information: The Interplay Between Face-to-face and Mediated Communication in Urban Communities in Finland and Japan”. The Japanese partners are funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

The project brings together the work of research communities in Finland and Japan to form a new interdisciplinary approach combining communication research, urban planning and collaborative action research, in an effort to better understand the relationship and interplay between face-to-face (F2F) and mediated communication in urban communities. In particular, the project will explore the possibilities to tie together methodologies and approaches from the Japanese and Finnish collaborators, namely DST (Digital Storytelling), Collaborative Design and SoftGIS (Geographic Information Systems) into a useful methodological toolset. The main contribution of the project lies in developing the methodological toolset and producing new knowledge on the use of communication technology in urban communities.

The partners are:

University of Helsinki, Department of Social Research, Media and Communication Studies, CRC

Aalto University, School of Engineering, Department of Surveying and Planning, Land Use Planning and Urban Studies Group

Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Media, Arki research group

University of Tokyo

Sapporo Ohtani University

Hitotsubashi University

The principal investigator of the consortium in Finland is Dr. Mikko Villi and in Japan professor Shin Mizukoshi.


Event: School Shootings – Global phenomenon of the media age?

Time: 14-16, Jan 8, 2013
Venue: Think Corner (Tiedekulma),
Aleksanterinkatu 7, Helsinki

The event will launch an international anthology, School Shootings: Mediatized Violence in a Global Age (Emerald). In this cross-disciplinary book school shootings are explored and analysed as a global phenomenon of the media era from a variety of cultural and social perspectives. The articles cover themes such as the relationship of journalism and violence, the roles of the victims and witnesses in the media, and the young and the visual imagery of violence. The international collective of writers represent different disciplines, including media research, psychology and sociology.

Editors of the anthology, Professor of sociology Glenn Muschert (Miami
University, USA) and adjunct professor of communication Johanna Sumiala (Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki).
Other Finnish writers, for example University Lecturer of communication Salli Hakala (University of Helsinki), researcher Jari Väliverronen (Tampere Research Centre for Journalism, Media and Communication COMET, University of Tampere) and researcher (psychology) Klas Backholm (Åbo Akademi).

The language of the event is English and it is open to everyone. The event is closely linked to the Science Forum 2013. The theme of the Science Forum 2013 is crisis.

Video on the book lauch and open discussion: /

Further information:
Johanna Sumiala, johanna.sumiala(at)

Conference: Conflict of public values and private interests? European media in 2012

Conflict of public values and private interests? European media in 2012
Time: 9.30-16.46 , Friday 27th of April, 2012
Venue: University of Helsinki, lecture hall,Unioninkatu 35

There is historically a close connection between the media and the ideal of democracy. It is a common understanding that the media is guided by the values of the freedom of speech, the plurality of platforms, and diversity of contents. However, according to many scholars, in the last decades this connection has been seriously challenged by economic and commercial values. It is claimed that due to this, a major change in the social role of the media has taken place, and that it is not public interest but the interests of the shareholders that the media serve today.  Not everybody agrees, however. The counter argument is that European media are still a long way from full commercialisation, and that the media are still able to successfully defend their democratic function.

The conference ”The conflict of public values and private interests? European media in 2012” addresses the tension between the democratic aims and the commercial gains experienced in the field of European media and communication. The speakers include internationally well known European scholars as well as the representatives of media companies. The conference is open to public, but registration is recommended.

The conference is free of charge and open for everyone, however, the number of participants is restricted due to limited seating; therefore, participation requires registration. Please register at latest by April 20.

09:30 Morning coffee
10:00 Opening of the Conference
Dr. Mervi Pantti, Head of the Media and Global Communication programme
Session 1: Is there a crisis in European media?
Professor Josef Trappel, University of Salzburg
Professor Jeanette  Steemers, University of Westminster
Dr. Ismo Silvo, Chief Operating Officer, Operations, YLE
11:30 Coffee break
11:45 Session 2: Controlling the Internet: whose responsibility?
Professor Niklas Bruun, University of Helsinki, Faculty of Law
Professor Laura Berges, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Dr. Johanna Jääsaari, University of Helsinki
13:00 Lunch break (lunch at own cost)
14:00 Session 3: Does PSM still have a future?
Professor Barbara Thomass, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
MP Ilkka Kantola, Chair, YLE Administrative Council
Professor Helena Sousa, University of Minho
15:15 Coffee break
15:30 Session 4: How to accommodate public values and private interests in European media 2012?
Professor Anker Brink Lund, Copenhagen Business School
[CEO Valtteri Niiranen, Federation of the Finnish Media Industry]
Dr. Kari Karppinen, University of Helsinki
16:45 Closing of the Conference

Professor Hannu Nieminen, hannu.nieminen(at), tel. +358 91912 4838
Coordinator Pauliina Shilongo, pauliina.shilongo(at), tel. +358 01912 3752


Public event: The Future of Journalism and its Value for Democracy

Thursday, 13 October 2011, 13.15-16.30
University of Helsinki Main Building, Fabianinkatu 33, Helsinki

Keynote speakers: Jay Hamilton, Daya Thussu, Robert Picard and Michael Schudson
The event is free of charge, however, the number of participants is restricted due to limited seating; therefore, participation requires registration. Please register at by 30 September 2011.

Communication Research Centre CRC is pleased to invite everyone concerned about the future of journalism to a half-day conference to discuss challenges to the business of journalism and their implications for democracy from an international perspective.Some changes in the business of journalism – like the rise of the Internet – have a global character. Yet many prominent media and communication researchers have argued that a proper understanding of these trends and their implications for democracy in particular countries require more internationally comparative research.
In the US, the UK and many parts of Western Europe, the Internet is eroding the current business models for advertising funded journalism as revenues and readers move from print to the web. In the Nordic countries, the downward pressures are present, but their impact on circulation and profitability has been less severe. Meanwhile in the BIICS group of emerging economies (Brazil, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa) growth remains the order of the day, with newspaper circulation rising by 35% overall between 2000-2008.
To clarify threats and opportunities that journalism faces in differences countries, four renowned keynote speakers will discuss actual trends in media use and practices, different responses to the challenges at hand, and their implications for journalism and democracy.


13.15 – 13.30         Brief welcome, Hannu Nieminen
13.30 – 14.00         What’s the incentive to save journalism?, James Hamilton
14.00 – 14.30         Global trends in media and journalism, Daya Thussu
14.30 – 15.00         Journalism as business today, Robert Picard
15.00 – 15.30         Journalism futures: US experience, Michael Schudson
15.30 – 16.30         Discussion. Moderator David Levy, Reuters Institute

About the speakers:

Daya Thussu is Professor of International Communication and Co-Director of India Media Centre, the world’s first academic centre dedicated to the study of media in India and its globalizing tendencies. He has published extensively in the field of global media and communication. His International Communication – Continuity and Change has already established itself as a key text in the field of global communication, adopted for courses in universities around the world.

David Levy became Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism Director in 2008. He was Controller, Public Policy at the BBC until 2007 where he led the BBC’s policy for the Charter Review and was in charge of public policy & regulation. His areas of expertise include modernising public service broadcasting, public service reform, the impact of digital technology, and media ownership and regulation both within the UK and Europe. Prior to his BBC policy role he worked as a journalist, first for the BBC World Service and then for BBC News and Current Affairs

Michael Schudson is a professor at Columbia School of Journalism. He is the author of six books and editor of two others concerning the history and sociology of the American news media, advertising, popular culture, Watergate and cultural memory. He is the recipient of a number of honors; he has been a Guggenheim fellow, a resident fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto, and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellow. In 2004, he received the Murray Edelman distinguished career award from the political communication section of the American Political Science Association and the International Communication Association.

James “Jay” Hamilton is the Charles S. Sydnor Professor of Public Policy at Duke University, as well as a professor of economics and political science. In 2004, he became director of undergraduate studies in the public policy department. Hamilton’s scholarly work and numerous publications reflect his interests in the economics of regulation, public choice/political economy, environmental policy and the media.

Robert Picard is Hamrin Professor of Media Economics and Director of the MMT centre at the Jönköping International Business School.His research focuses on economic structures of media markets, media industries and firms, demand for media products and services, business models and strategies of media operations, productivity of media firms, financial performance, and government policies affecting economic aspects of media. His research has involved newspapers, advertising, broadcasting, and new media. He is the author and editor of 20 books, editor of the Journal of Media Business Studies and is the founding editor of the Journal of Media Economics.

The event is made possible by the sponsorship of the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation