Some studies on political communication in the Obama era: a sociological reading

Stefano Cristante

Abstract

In the context of the considerable and global increase of public attention to political communication, the essay connects some keywords emerging from recent publications in the field. The first word is “storytelling”, considered as source for a new narrative vision about political leadership, an analysis of which is provided by the evaluation of Christian Salman’s book by the same title (Storytelling, 2007). The second word is “autobiography”, viewed as a powerful tool to introduce the symbolic meaning of a political figure and to identify the image of a nation (such in the case of Obama and his autobiographical books). The third word is “charisma”, a rather ambiguous term, crucial to understand the difference between hard, soft and smart power, as we find in Nye (The Powers To Lead, 2008) and Castells (Communication Power, 2009). While Nye suggests that charisma results from the interweaving of soft and hard authority forms, Castells underlines the increasingly relevant relationships between power and communication. The new situation is based on the unstable balance between broadcasting and on line tools. In particular, TV news run after scandals and gossip, while social networks (and in general all the new media web 2.0) announce a sort of self-mass-communication. Thus, the leaders’ skill to use the “right” media at the “right” time necessarily implies comprehension of the role of technology in postmodern society.

Keywords

political communication; Obama; storytelling; power

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