Between November 2012 and August 2016 I have worked on a postdoctoral research project as part of a larger interdisciplinary research project called Responding to welfare state services: An analysis of users, media and public institutions. It is organized by the Stein Rokkan Centre for Social Studies and the University of Bergen, and funded by the Norwegian Research Council.
While the larger project will analyse various forms of user responses to welfare state services, my postdoctoral project will focus on the role of social media as an arena for debating and responding to the welfare state. As the internet has become an integral aspect of everyday life and a crucial site for information and debate, more research is needed on how internet use might contribute to public opinion on a fundamental societal institutions – such as the welfare state. For instance, the widespread use of social media warrants attention to how the communicative possibilities and challenges of social media might affect people’s relationships with the welfare state.
The main research question for my project is: What is the impact of social media on 1) user communication with welfare state services, 2) the sharing of experiences between welfare service users and 3) formation of public opinion about the welfare state? The three-part research question will be answered through a case study approach. I will draw on various qualitative methods including interviews and discourse analysis, and on theoretical perspectives from public sphere theory, sociology and audience and reception research.