Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Hashtag NZPol: New Zealand Women Twitter Users and Political Participation Construction

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Version 1 2021-12-08, 20:57
posted on 2023-09-26, 23:59 authored by Sarah Bickerton

This dissertation addresses the research question of “How do women Twitter users in New Zealand construct political participation?” On the issue of the potential of the online spaces as political spaces, historical research has tended to be technologically deterministic, and dichotomous. Further, contemporary quantitative research into the impact of online politics on offline political participation has identified a gap: that the qualitative particularities of political participation online have not been sufficiently researched to provide a more nuanced and complete understanding. In a New Zealand context, what little empirical research there has been on online politics has taken a top-down approach. With a focus on political parties, political figures, and campaigning, there has been almost no research into bottom-up citizen-focused online politics, nor political participation construction more widely in New Zealand. It is in these gaps that this research is positioned.  Methodologically, 25 unstructured interviews were conducted using prompt-style questions, either in person or via video-call software, with women based in New Zealand who were active Twitter users. Selective snowball sampling was used as a recruitment strategy, providing a range of participants from different ethnic backgrounds, locations around New Zealand, and levels of political involvement. Interviews were transcribed and then thematically coded from themes based both from the literature and emergent from the interviews themselves. A theoretical framework of narrative analysis was used during this analysis to look for the understandings and social meanings that the participants were invoking in their constructions.  The findings were grouped largely into four areas: 1) a propensity towards prioritising primary relationships in political behaviour rooted in experience, the everyday, the personal, and understandings of social location and relationality; 2) an issue-based approach to being political and how discussion, listening, reading, and engagement are foregrounded over traditional political forms, including forefronting an empathetic imperative; 3) specifically online political behaviour that prioritised impact (but indirect rather than direct), complicated simplistic ‘echo chamber’ conceptions of online groupings and different social media platforms, as well as how negativity and diversity was managed; and 4) understandings of what might be a particularly ‘New Zealand’ articulation of political participation that centred a lack of size, being conflict-averse, and a less party-political culture negotiating between global and local political narratives, concluding with an introduction of whakawhanaungatanga.  Chapter 9 analyses the critical findings of this thesis: the centrality of primary relationships and relationality, indirect impact, how an issue-based approach to politics is negotiated, and the emphasis on personal experience and emotion. Further, it examines the priority of discursive forms of political participation over traditional forms, and the location of such in the everyday, both in topic and embedding. This is all analysed using Sociology of Space, looking to constructions of political space, place, and boundaries. The conclusion summarises these contributions, suggesting that New Zealand policy around online politics requires understanding of how New Zealanders conceptualise bottom-up political participation.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline

Public Policy

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Government


Lofgren, Karl; Kuehn, Kathleen