Politics in a Digital Age:
The Impact of New Media Technologies on
Public Participation and Political Campaign
in Pakistan’s 2018 Elections – A Case Study
PhD Graduate, School of Communication and Arts, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
- Sadia Jamil PhD Graduate
School of Communication and Arts
The University of Queensland, Brisbane
Received date: August 14, 2018; Accepted date: August 18, 2018; Published date: August 23, 2018
Citation: Jamil S. Politics in a Digital Age: The Impact of New Media Technologies on Public Participation and Political Campaign in Pakistan’s 2018 Elections – A Case Study of Karachi. Global Media Journal 2018, 16:31.
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Drawing on the theory of public participation, this study evaluates the public’s use of new media technologies during Pakistan’s 2018 election, and whether new media technologies have increased their level of participation in the democratic process and political discourse. The study also examines the impacts of new media technologies on political parties’ campaign and the government’s activities during the country’s 2018 election. To achieve these objectives, the study uses quantitative method of survey and qualitative methods of document review and in-depth interviews. The study uses relative frequency statistics to present the survey data and thematic analysis to analyze the qualitative data.
New media technologies; Political campaign; Democratic process;
Political discourse; Public participation; Pakistan’s 2018 election
The digital revolution has facilitated dramatic changes with
significant results worldwide such as increased public’s access
to information, generation of new gateways to goods and
services and more opportunities of civic engagement and social
networking with expanded communities. More importantly,
political institutions and activities are seen as largely mediated and
shaped by the technologies of information and communication.
New media technologies1 are recognized as having a powerful
influence on the public's access to information and government’s
documents, the methods and content of political campaigns, the
attitudes and preferences of voters, the efforts of activists to
disseminate their messages, and the ways in which topics enter
the public discourse .
Many Western political scientists and anthropologists assert that
democracy and a healthy society require the active participation
of citizens through varied media platforms. It is widely viewed
that new media technologies have incredibly broken “dominant
communication sphere” traditionally held by the political elites, resulting in a cyber sphere2 and a deep-rooted culture of
democracy which permits citizens for wider participation and
networking in political debates and democratic process through
new platforms of their expression and self-representation [1-4].
Some past Western studies have shown a positive relationship
between the use of new media and political mobilization, public’s
participation and democratization during the election campaign
[5-8]. On the other hand, studies conducted in non-Western
societies, also have revealed that the penetration of new media
technologies aid for a more politically inclusive society, allowing
excluded voices to have a social presence and challenging
dominant political or social discourses that is necessary for
fostering social cohesion and peace. For instance, the political
uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011 suggest that new media
have helped citizens to be part of participatory politics to achieve
wider democratic goals . Similarly, studies have shown positive
implications of social media and mobile phone usage on sociopolitical
dynamics in Indonesia .
In the case of Pakistan, some studies suggest that new media
technologies can be seen as a catalyst to reconfigure Pakistan’s
politics and democratic process by introducing new platforms of
public’s communication and their participation in politics [11-14].
In July 2018, general elections in Pakistan have been held by the
country’s Election Commission. Yet, there is no study that offers
qualitative insights into the public’s use of new media and its
impact on their participation in political process, political parties’
campaign and government’s activities during this election –
especially in the Southern port city of Karachi. Therefore, this
article aims to fill this gap in literature.
The article firstly articulates the objectives of this study.
Secondly, it briefly reviews past studies into the use of new media
technologies in relation to political and election campaign and
public participation in democratic process and political discourse.
Thirdly, the article explains the theoretical framework and
methodology of the study. And finally, it discusses findings and
conclusion of the study.
Objectives of the Study
This study has the following three objectives:
• To explore the public’s use of new media technologies in
Karachi during Pakistan’s 2018 election.
• To analyse whether new media technologies have
increased Karachi’s public participation in democratic
process and political discourse during the country’s 2018
• To examine the impacts of new media technologies on
political parties’ campaign and government’s activities in
Karachi during Pakistan’s 2018 election.
The concept of new media
New media has been conceptualized differently by media and
communications scholars. For some, new media have emerged
from the modern information and communication technologies.
On the other hand, many scholars agree that new media indicate
the transforming patterns of media production, distribution and
use. Therefore, it combines three elements:
(i) Computing information technology;
(ii) Communications networks (i.e., mobile phones, internet,
cable television and interactive television);
(iii) Content on digitized media [15,16]. Figure 1 below illustrates
the key defining elements of new media.
Figure 1: Key defining elements of new media.
Likewise, Lister et al. [12-14,17] suggest that new media
technologies are actually the new way of production, distribution
and consumption of media content (either information or
entertainment), and that has transformed the operation of
traditional media outlets including newspapers, television and
radio broadcasters. Despite the distinct features of new media,
the author believes that the new media technologies still serve a
complimentary role to the traditional media.
New media technologies, political campaign and
The use of new media in election campaigns is not a recent trend; however, its significance has increased steadily over time.
For instance, in the United States, Clinton’s campaign-related
information was placed on the internet during 1992 presidential
election . In the US presidential election of 2002, electoral
candidates’ online campaign was a very common tool, which
“led some to proclaim 2002 as the first internet election. And in
2004 election, US political candidates moved beyond perceiving
the web as an electronic brochure to viewing it as electronic
headquarters” [10,19]. By the time of 2008 election, new media
tools (such as social networking and blogging) became popular and
were used for former- President Obama’s political campaign .
These are just a few past examples of election campaigns in the
United States. Today, in many Western countries and especially
in the United States, no electoral candidate and political party
can enter an election process without having an online presence,
and scholars do agree with an expected growth in the use of new
media tools in politics and election campaigns .
Literature review suggests that new media are widely
acknowledged as a significant tool for increasing the public’s
political information and their participation in democratic
process. For example, some previous Western studies into the
use of new media in political campaigns underline that internet
and online media have improved the visibility and accessibility of
political information and election campaigns. And it has emerged
as a source of political engagement, knowledge and interaction
for public at a very low cost. Now the public has online space
for gaining political knowledge, participating in opinion polls,
discussing politics through blogging, tweeting and expressing
their opinions across a range of social media networks [22-25].
Moreover, the positive impact of new media technologies on
politics and public participation has recognized in many non-
Western contexts as well. For example, Aday et al.  highlight
that new media have promoted freedom of expression, speeded- up the process of democratization and empowered political
activists to combat against authoritarian regimes. They view that
new media platforms (such as Twitter, Face Book, YouTube and
Blogs) have played a crucial role in political conflicts especially in
the Middle East – where traditional media is heavily restricted
and internet and other social media have provided a new and
comparatively freer space to public for raising their voice. And
thus, social media has actually empowered the masses .
Likewise, Nugroho and Syarief , in their study about ‘new
media and political process in contemporary Indonesia’ reveal the
positive impact of social media usage on socio-political dynamics
of the country. Their study suggests that new media is serving as
a fast and a successful tool for information dissemination, public
participation in political process and an online public sphere
has created in Indonesia, which has helped in strengthening the
democratic structure of the Indonesian society. Nevertheless,
the challenge is to further broaden this sphere into civic political
The case of Pakistan is a little different because the country’s
socio-political circumstances and demographic attributes are
contrary to Indonesia and many countries in the Middle East
(such as Egypt, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates ect). Pakistan’s
media is enjoying considerable freedom and it is considered as
the most vocal one in South Asia. The country’s traditional media
is already serving as an agent of political change and television
news channels not only often co-opt content from cyberspace
and social media but also they are operating their online news
websites too, which are open for public’s feedbacks and opinion
polls. Hence, the Pakistani public has more options to get political
information and participate in the political process and discourse.
With the proliferation of Information and Communication
Technology (ICT) infrastructure, social media has become popular
in Pakistan. Kugelman  suggest that the Pakistani public use
social media in five ways:
(i) For personal recreation, communication and networking;
(ii) To access the news stories ignored by traditional media;
(iii) To participate in social, political and other campaigns;
(iv) To promote and coordinate for humanitarian social causes,
donations, political issues and problems; and
(v) To participate in social and political debates. This implies that
internet and other new media do have an impact in the domain
of politics by introducing easy and new ways of public networking
with political parties and to coordinate an event, make donations
and to get information.
Previously, a number of scholars have analyzed the impact of new
media in Pakistan’s politics [11-13,26] and public participation in
it . Nevertheless, comparatively lesser attention has been
paid to examine how the public use social media and other digital
tools during the country’s election [13,26]. In order to understand
the role of new media in politics, especially in relation to political
parties’ campaign and public’s participation in Pakistan’s 2018
election, there is a need of research that offers qualitative and
quantitative insights both in this domain. Hence, this study
addresses this topic.
Theory of public participation
The theory of public participation emphasizes a process
through which citizen can raise voice for their basic rights (i.e.,
freedom of expression; freedom of information; freedom of
association and religion; rights to justice, equality, access to
basic facilities necessary for an individual living and growth) and
for accountability of those with powers with an opportunity
to influence their policies, reforms and decision-making. The
theory conceptualizes citizens as a fundamental part of political
discourse and democratic and decision-making processes through
their active involvement and participation [27-29].
Bryson et al.  suggest that there are varied purposes of
public participation, namely: to advance the legal, political and
democratic structure of the society; to foster inclusion and
equality; to promote social justice and fundamental rights (such as
freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of religion
and so on); to develop an understanding of issues of common
concerns and to come-up with practical solutions; and proposing
policies, reforms and long or short-terms plans for the public’s
benefit. Above all the core objective of public participation is to
buttress democratic culture within the society.
Renn et al.  highlight that media-laden public participation
is advantageous because people through their representation
and participation can offer different perspectives to issues and
solutions that can help government’s institutions to plan effective
policies. Some authors view that public participation can aid in an
equitable distribution of limited public resources, which is very
important to be considered in contexts like Pakistan – where
there are no enough natural and economic resources to full fill
the needs of growing population and to solve heaps of socioeconomic
and environmental problems [32,33].
Other studies underline that public participation can help to
create resources for future problem-solving and to address new
issues by increasing trust and legitimacy, developing relationships
and creating knowledge and interest about policy issues and
There are many studies that unpack the potential role of
traditional media (i.e., newspapers and television news channels)
for public participation in politics in different contexts of the
world [36-40]. Now people do participate in political debates that
are particularly facilitated by television news channels. However,
it is widely acknowledged that new media are more accessible to
public and they are providing newer options to them for accessing
information and participation, creating an online or digital sphere
of political discourse that is rigorously transforming political
parties’ campaign methods and democratic process [41,42].
Thus, in the light of precedent studies, this study posits that
new media technologies (such as internet, social media and mobile
phones) may have much deeper effect on the ways political parties
carry-out their election campaign and the level of public participation
in the political discourse during Pakistan’s 2018 election. Figure 2 below illustrates the theoretical framework of this study.
Figure 2: Theory of public participation and new media.
This study investigates three research questions, namely:
(i) What is the public’s use of new media in Karachi during
Pakistan’s 2018 election?
(ii) Does the use of new media increase the level of Karachi’s
public participation in the democratic process and political
discourse during the country’s 2018 election?
(iii) Are there any impacts of new media technologies on political
parties’ campaign and the government’s activities in Karachi
during Pakistan’s 2018 election?
To investigate the above-mentioned research questions, the
study uses the quantitative method of survey and the qualitative
method of in-depth interviews. Using simple random sampling3,
the study incorporates a total of 100 male and female survey
respondents, belonging to Muslim and non-Muslim religions (in
ratio of 80 and 20 percents respectively), of age ranging between
22 and 65 years, and who hold at least a bachelor degree in any
discipline. These survey respondents have been chosen from
six districts of Karachi, namely: Karachi Central District, Karachi East District, Malir District, Karachi South District, Karachi West
District and Korangi District. Fifteen survey respondents have
been selected randomly from five districts of Karachi and twentyfive
survey respondents have been chosen from Karachi Central,
which is the largest district of the city4.
The bilingual (i.e., Urdu and English languages) and multiplechoice
survey5 questionnaire seeks to explore the public’s usage
of new media technologies during Pakistan’s 2018 election across
seven key themes:
(i) Access to information,
(ii) ability to enhance political knowledge,
(iii) Individual political transformation,
(iv) Participation in political campaign and discourse,
(v) Intercommunity interaction and networking,
(vi) Public’s accountability of government and institutions,
(vii) Ability for collective action. The survey has been conducted
during the time period of election campaign in Karachi (i.e., 15th
May till 15th July).
Furthermore, using purposive sampling6, the study incorporates
14 interviews of male and female journalists7 from the mainstream
Urdu and English languages’ newspapers (i.e., Daily Dawn, The News
International, Express Tribune, The Nation, Business Recorder, Daily
Jang, Daily Express, and Nawa-e-Waqt) and television news channels
(i.e., Samma TV, Geo News, ARY News, Express News, AAJ News and
Dunya News) in Karachi. In addition, the study also includes eight
interviews of the local members belonging to the major political
parties of the country, namely:
(i) Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI),
(ii) Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM),
(iii) Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N),
(iv) Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP),
(v) Muttahida Majlis-e- Amal (MMA),
(vi) Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP),
(vii) Awami National Party (ANP) and
(viii) Awami Workers Party (AWP). In order to ensure the privacy
and safety of interviewees, journalists names have been replaced
by numbers (between 1 and 14) and members of political parties’
names have been replaced with alphabets (between A and H).
The study uses relative frequency statistics to present the survey
data and thematic analysis8 to analyze the qualitative data.
Results and Discussion
Karachi: The public’s use of new media
technologies and their participation in
democratic process and political discourse
during Pakistan’s 2018 election
As per the survey result, during 2018 election, Karachiite’s have
used internet (Google and other search engines), Face Book and
Twitter most for: accessing information, increasing their political
knowledge, political transformation, participation in political
campaign, intercommunity networking and interaction and for
carrying-out collective action for issues of common concern. Blogs
have been used mostly for political campaign and government’s
accountability. The survey result shows a substantial use of
mobile phone for election campaign and intercommunity
networking purposes only. Noticeably, the survey findings do
not indicate any use of digital media (CDs and DVDs) by Karachi’s
public during the election. Figure 3 and Table 1, below, explains
the survey result for research question one of this study.
Figure 3:The public’s use of new media technologies in Karachi during Pakistan’s election 2018.
Table 1: The public’s use of new media technologies in Karachi during Pakistan’s election 2018.
||New Media tools for public’s participation in Karachi during Pakistan’s election 2018
|The public’s use of new media tools
||Internet (Google and other search engines)
||Digital media (CDs and DVDs)
|Access to information
|Ability to enhance political knowledge
|Individual political transformation
|Participation in political campaign and discourse
|Intercommunity interaction and networking
|Government's and institutions accountability
|Ability for collective action on issues of common concern
In this study, interview data confirms the survey findings and
reveals that the levels of Karachiite’s political knowledge, their participation in election process and political discourse have
been largely increased by virtue of social media much more than
the traditional media. For instance, a male journalist, from local
television news channel, states:
In Karachi, the penetration of Information and Communication
Technology (ICT) infrastructure has changed media practices
and public’s attitudes to a large extent. Most newspapers and
television news channels are running their news websites and
people mostly prefer online news now. What is noticeable during
this election campaign is that people are not only relying on
editorials and TV talk shows for opinion building, but rather they
are much engaged in social media debates about who would lead
whom? Or who would solve the issues of Karachi? Or who would
change the future of Pakistan? Face Book, Blogs and Twitter
have become platforms of judgment and self-expression both….
I call it social media trial of not only corrupt politicians but also
of political parties, which claim to bring revolutionary changes in
Pakistan. (Interviewee number 6)
Another male journalist, from a local English-language’s
New media is generating the new ways for politics. It is not only
serving for socializing and networking, but it is also transforming
the thinking patterns of people for politics… There was a time when
people used to watch eight pm television current affairs’ programs
and that used to be a strong tool for opinion building and political
knowledge among masses. However, those programs were not
enough to facilitate civic participation in the politics… New media
has made its space in the Pakistani politics by providing people
diverse sources of information and by involving them in political
dialogue… Let me tell you that a few years ago it was very difficult
for the Pakistani society to involve in politics. But now, a majority
of people, especially in Karachi, use it for political purposes, and it
is much convenient for them to take part in political discussions.
(Interviewee number 2)
In the age of technology, the word new media is not new for the
Pakistani society. However, its impacts for the level of public
participation during the country’s 2018 are noticeable. For
example, “approximately 44 million Pakistanis, which are almost
about a quarter of the total population, use social media. There
are around over 50 Face Book political pages that are followed or
liked by up to 30 million people.” And almost all major political
parties have their Face Book pages that are liked and followed
by thousands of people [43,44]. These statistics indicate the
considerable involvement of the Pakistani people in politics.
When analyzing the case of Karachi, during 2018 election,
this study thus manifests that social media (especially Face
Book, Twitter and Blogs) have appeared as the most powerful
new media tools for political information, governments and
institutions’ accountability, public’s participation, their opinion
formation and collective action for common problems. However,
the author argues that the substantial public’s use of new media
in Karachi does not necessarily indicate their voting turn over
or whether new media has any impact in altering their voting
preferences. With regard to this, a male journalist, from an Urdulanguage’s
newspaper, underlines some interesting facts:
Karachi is a multi-ethnic city and people here possess strong
political affiliations and they vote on the basis of their ethnicities.
Let me give you an example of Urdu-speaking community. Their
votes mostly go to Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), but
there are chances of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) to take
over seats in major constituencies of Karachi. I say so because
people are frustrated due to the current messy situation of the
city and many are looking for some political change to overcome
the deadlocks of development process in the city… Personally, I
think that no political party would be able to get majority of seats
because many people are not registered in the voting list and still
the voting preferences of people are not clear… Indeed, people
in Karachi, are actively participating in political dialogue through
social media and internet, but it does not indicate the pattern of
voting turn over or their preferences explicitly because people are
not really pleased with the previous election process and political
parties’ apathetic attitude towards the devastating situation of
the city. (Interviewee number 4).
Drawing on the theory of public participation, the author believes
that the public’s use of social media and other new media are
significant indicators of their participation in political discourse.
However, it cannot be seen as an indicator of their involvement
in democratic process because not every person can use social
media or internet due to a number of constraints such as a lack of
literacy/or basic skill to operate internet and mobile phone, limited
or no accessibility to internet or mobile phone, affordability and
time constraints. Also, as suggested by interviewee number 4, the
use of new media does not essentially indicate the public’s voting
turn over and their preferences. Therefore, further research into
this area is required.
Pakistan’s 2018 election: The impact of new
media technologies on political campaign and
government’s activities in Karachi
It is widely recognized that the emergence of new media technologies has altered the course of election campaign
overall and has become the vital source of communication for
candidates during election campaigns in many countries of the
When analyzing the case of Karachi, the political landscape has
changed quite a bit during the last decade. Earlier, electoral
candidates used to communicate their messages to voters through
wall chalking, posters and banners, hand-out-leaflets, knock
on doors, corner meetings and drive around in vans speaking
through loudspeakers and playing audio songs. However, new
media has reshaped the concept of political campaign in the city.
In this regard, a female political worker of Pakistan Tahreek-e-
Insaaf (PTI), states:
Karachi is the economic engine of Pakistan. Therefore, the
dynamics of politics is also different in the city. All major political
parties strive hard to win maximum seats in different districts of
the city. And for this purpose, they use every means to influence
voters’ preference… See, during this election, PTI has focused
a lot on campaign through social media, mobile phones and
internet apart from organizing political gatherings, door-to-door
campaign and print and electronic media advertising… Even other
major political parties (like MQM, PPP, MMA, PML-N) have their
Face Book pages and their political leaders have Twitter accounts
for promoting parties’ political agendas (Interviewee C)
According to male political members of Pakistan Muslim League
Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP):
PML-N is comparatively more active in Punjab province, but we do
liaise with our voters living in Karachi through social media. We
do pay attention to their problems and social media interaction
enables us to communicate with them more frequently.
While we have allocated fund for electronic media’s campaign,
we prefer to keep in touch with voters online. PPP’s Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and other party leaders have been very
active to respond tweets on their account. And we do not do this
just for the sake of competition with other political parties… I
would say, social media campaign is more fast, interactive and
less costly. (Interviewee H)
The author also opines that online campaign has two benefits
for political parties. Firstly, they can manage their promotion at
a very low cost as compared to the print and electronic media’s
campaign that requires massive investment. Secondly, now they
can convey their messages to the public to a greater extent,
within no time, through social media.
In Pakistan’s 2018 election, particularly Face Book and Twitter
have played a crucial role in informing and mobilizing voters
and connecting electoral candidates with the public. This study
confirms these facts and finds that almost all major political
leaders especially Imran Khan (Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-
Insaf - PTI), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (Chairman of Pakistan Peoples’
Party - PPP) and Maryam Nawaz (leader of Pakistan Muslim
League Nawaz - PML-N) are the regular users of Twitter and have
a substantial public’s following. According to a latest newspaper
report on social media usage of different political leaders and
PTI’s Chairman Imran Khan is the most popular leader on microblogging
website Twitter in Pakistan with his followers reaching
8.03 million. Hence his tweets’ likes reach thousands within a
few minutes. Maryam Nawaz comes second with more than 4.73
million while Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has 2.72 million followers on
Similarly, the three political parties have official party accounts
on Twitter as well on which PTI took the lead as its followers are
3.53 million while PML-N and PPP have mere 94,400 and 54,800
Moreover, on Facebook too, the PTI has managed to maintain
its supremacy as PTI chairman’s page is the most popular with
8.2 million followers while official PTI account has 5.8 million
followers. On the other hand, Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s official
page has 267,147 followers while PML-N’s Facebook page has
2.6 million followers.
Similarly, PPP’s official page on Facebook has over 195,663
followers while Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Facebook followers are
These aforementioned facts indicate that people can interact
with electoral candidates more easily in Pakistan than before.
Otherwise, usually a person cannot interact with politician or
leaders except during a live event, and at times it is impossible
in Karachi because of protocol and safety issues. With the advent
of new media technologies, it is now possible for karachitte’s to
attend virtual events where they can participate in live streaming
events and interact with politicians and candidates.
Noticeably, political campaigns through new media (especially
Twitter) are not without potential challenges in Karachi and
overall in Pakistan. In 2018 election, political leaders have
claimed a lot of Twitter followers. The author thinks that the
existence of social bots cannot be ignored. In the case of Twitter, bots can generate re-tweets or likes, and follow certain accounts
automatically. This has happened earlier during the US election.
For example, according to a newspaper report, “Twitter identified
more than 500 accounts which tried to convince English and
Spanish supporters of Hillary Clinton to vote online or via text”
Another major challenge posed by new media is that political
campaigns are now influenced by stories, whether true or not,
which disseminate through Face Book and Twitter. For instance,
a male journalist, from a television news channel suggests:
It is getting more and more difficult to identify actual news from
fake news online. At time journalists gather facts from internet
without verifying them. This is happening these days as I receive
stories, links and rumours about political leaders and content
about their political campaign - that are a mixture of truth,
false facts, satire and gossip. This is neither good for the public’s
right to know and nor for the election process… public needs to
know accurate information for their effective participation in the
election. (Interviewee number 11)
This study reveals that new media has not only brought
significant impacts on political campaigns, but also it has helped
government’s authorities for managing election process as well.
This is Pakistan’s fourth election of the twenty-first century, but
perhaps the first in which social media and digital technology have
been effectively used by the Election Commission of Pakistan. For
example, the government’s authorities have used mobile service
to help citizens in locating their polling station by simply texting
their National Identity Card number at government’s authorized
number 8300. Similarly, in 2018 election, the government has
collaborated with Face Book for installing a feature to link the
Pakistani voters to website of the Election Commission. This
has helped Election Commission to communicate all sorts of
advisory messages to the public such as: warning and reminding
them about fake material received via Wats app or e-mails, and
encouraging them to verify news or political content disseminated
by political parties – particularly in Karachi.
By and large, the use of new media (especially Face Book and
Twitter) is relatively new in political campaigns and election
process in Pakistan. The author believes that new media will
continue to transform the Pakistani politics in future.
Pakistan is a developing country where public participation in
politics and democratic process can help in solving many socioeconomic
and political issues. In 2018 election, new media has
enabled Karachiite’s to express and reflect on political and the
city’s pressing issues and to participate in election process more
actively. This study manifests that Twitter, Blogs, Face Book and
internet have altogether facilitated the public’s ability to gain
political knowledge and to participate in political debates.
Drawing on the theory of public participation, the author argues
that the assumption of people’s empowerment and their equal
participation and representation through new media is a myth in
the case of Karachi. Many areas of Karachi lack basic amenities
and infrastructure and a lot of people are not well-skilled andliterate enough to use new media technologies effectively. And
those who either do not have or with limited access to internet
and mobile devices actually cannot represent themselves in
the online sphere of political discourse. In such circumstances,
new media increases the gap between information/knowledge
possessor and non-possessor and deprive many people to
participate in democratic process. However, with an increased
literacy rate, improved infrastructure, and equitable resources,
Karachi’s people can have more inclusive and equal participation
in the political discourse and democratic process.
Moreover, the study suggests that Pakistan’s 2018 election
is a test drive for the use of social media in election campaign
by political parties. And in the case of Karachi, online political campaign has shown positive outcomes in terms of informing
and mobilizing voters.
In future, Pakistan’s government can change polling techniques
and election process through introducing online voting and
more systematic information websites - although this requires
resources and skills both for effective implementation. For
election campaign, more virtual political gatherings can be
organized, resulting in more people to participate in democratic
process. As social media becomes ever more popular, its impact
on politics and election campaigns will increase over time. It
will be interesting to observe how this plays out – especially in
Karachi and other major cities of Pakistan.
1New media is used as a relative term and has been defined by scholars in varied
ways. Peters describes new media as “emerging communication and information
technologies undergoing a historical process of contestation, negotiation and
institutionalization.” By and large, new media is conceptualised as those forms that
combine the three Cs: “computing and information technology; communications
networks; and content on digitized media”
2New media technologies have created cyber sphere for public that is different from
Habermas’s concept of ‘public sphere’ and ‘private sphere’ Habermas , blurring the
boundaries demarcations of global and local.
3Simple random sampling is basically an impartial and unprejudiced representation of
a group. It is recognized a neutral method to choose research participants or a sample
from a larger population, since every person of the population has an equal chance
of getting selected.
4The reasons for choosing Karachi as the main site of data collection are bi-fold.
Firstly, Karachi is the economic-hub of Pakistan and political changes within the city
do affect its revenue output for the country. Secondly, Karachi is the most important
city of Pakistan in terms of political parties’ competition in any election given electoral
candidates from all major political parties contest election from this city.
5In this study, multiple choice survey questionnaires has been used so as survey
respondents could select the key areas of issues that affect the rise of digital culture
6Purposive sampling refers to the “selection of certain groups or individuals for their
relevance to the issue being studied”.
7The study incorporates interviews of six female and eight male journalists respectively.
8Thematic analysis helps to classify data under relevant themes in order to interpret
the various aspects of research topic. In this study, the themes have been emerged
from the research questions, and therefore; findings and discussion have been
presented under those themes.
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