Doctoral Dissertation

19.10.2018 M.A. Niina Sormanen (Facul­ty of Hu­ma­ni­ties and Social Sciences, Journalism)


19.10.2018 12:00 — 15:00

Location: Seminaarinmaki , L302
M.A. Niina Sormanen defends her doctral dissertation in Journalism: "Social network site communities as agents and spaces of pursuing influence in society: Forms, stages and attributes of building comminicative power".

Opponent Professor Maria Bakardjieva (The University of Calgary) and Custos Senior Researcher Turo Uskali (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English.


Before the emergence and high popularity of social media, individuals or even collectives of individual citizens rarely had strong voice in public discourse. Social media, and its social network sites (SNS), have allowed individual people to form communities to create discourse around issues they find meaningful, and even unite their power to fight for a common cause and potentially influence changes in society.

The objectives of the thesis were to investigate what types of ‘societal influence (SI) oriented SNS communities’ the Internet and social media arena consists of and how their potential communicative power is formed, even to the extent that they can challenge news media and business organizations and government institutions. The theoretical framework introduces the necessary multidisciplinary research literature and nature of the thesis and makes a novel characterization of the ‘SI oriented SNS communities’.

The thesis consists of three empirical studies reported in original articles. The data were gathered through multiple, mixed qualitative and quantitative methods, including collecting computational large data sets, semi-structured survey and interviews, observation of Internet and social media contents, and news archive searches. Analysis methods include statistical analysis, content analysis, close reading, case studies and thematic and media content analysis.

The thesis suggests that the SI oriented SNS communities function both as core agents and effective spaces of influencing change in society, and their communicative power is formed in two stages: Stage I consisting of communities gathering people and affecting collective image formation and Stage II consisting of communities creating concrete activities and alternate solutions.

Further, the thesis located nine quality and behavior attributes central to the communicative power formation of the SNS communities, and divided them as essential attributes for Stage I and enabling attributes for Stage II communities. The thesis also suggests that the SNS communities and (traditional) news media have their unique roles as societal agenda setters and makes conclusions about their intertwined and complex power relations.

The thesis finally gives cooperation insights for all the social media actors discussed in the thesis.

Keywords: communicative power, societal influence, social media, social network site, online/virtual community, social movement, news media, agenda setting