Old and new echo chambers

In this research seminar, Paolo Mancini argues that the rise of the "echo chamber" phenomenon represents a new development in political participation in the USA.

By contrast, European democracies have witnessed for many years a sort of news media “affiliation consumption” (selective exposure) very similar to the “echo-chamber” phenomenon: leftist/liberal citizens read leftist newspapers and TV outlets and rightist/conservative citizens read rightist newspaper and TV outlets. 

For some scholars the rise of the internet, and more specifically the possibility of virtual personal interaction, has increased the tendency to form closed circles undermining the possibility for a more open, democratic debate. Other scholars have stressed a contrasting view. Findings from survey research conducted during the recent election campaign in Italy demonstrate that social media do not increase the tendency towards echo chambers based on common political affiliations. Rather, a stronger tendency towards echo chamber emerges around single issues. Therefore, social media in particular seems to foster new forms of political participation that are no longer based on the traditional political cleavages.

Paolo Mancini is a Professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of Perugia. His major publications include Politics, Media and Modern Democracy with David Swanson (New York, Praeger, 1996), Between Commodification and Lifestyle Politics: Does Silvio Berlusconi Provide a New Model of Politics for the 21st Century? (Oxford, 2011), and Il post partito (Bologna, 2015). Professor Mancini has published articles in all major communication and journalism studies journals. After coordinating the ‘Media and corruption’ stream of the ANTICORRP (Global trends and European Responses to the Challenge of Corruption) project (funded by the EU 7th Framework Programme), Mancini is further developing new studies on media and corruption. His latest research focuses on the recent Italian election campaign.