Project Description

Media platforms and social accountability: Dynamics, practices and discourses MAPS is a research project at the University of Helsinki. MAPS examines digital media platforms as crucial sites for accountability processes and debates across a range of global contexts.

As discussions about the role of social media platforms in both facilitating and threatening democratic processes have intensified globally, social accountability is becoming an increasingly prominent demand and ideal in the current media environment. MAPS examines digital media platforms as crucial sites for accountability processes and debates across a range of global contexts. The primary question motivating the project is: How is accountability is produced, enacted and articulated in the contemporary media environment? To generate answers, it examines three interrelated aspects of accountability:

(1) the shifting dynamics of accountability, or the ways in which new media technologies shape the ways in which accountability is claimed and enacted in online interactions between citizens and public and private organisations;
(2) discourses of accountability, or the ways in which accountability is defined and contested in public debates over online media platforms;
(3) and practices and policies of accountability, or the ways in which governments and civil society actors try to enforce media platform accountability, as well as how the platforms respond to accountability demands in efforts to reclaim their legitimacy.

The project uses digital methods combined with qualitative approaches and adopts a comparative research design to examine the changing dynamics, practices and discourses of social accountability through a series of case studies. The case studies employ a wide range of materials, including policy documents, committee hearings, news media data and social media conversations, as well as interviews and fieldwork notes. The project produces new knowledge and public understanding of the ways in which social media platforms and media organizations intervene and influence accountability processes, both facilitating and threatening democratic participation. Theoretically, the project is innovative in examining ‘digital media’ as consisting of different, albeit intertwined, platforms, channels and practices that each pose different implications for social accountability. It conceptualizes media and digital platforms as fundamental actors and resources that influence relations and practices of social accountability.

Project is led by professor Mervi Pantti. It is funded by the Academy of Finland and runs 01.09.2020 – 31.08.2024.