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ICA 2012: Nojin Kwak, Scott Campbell, Dam Hee Kim

Social Media Use and Political Engagement in Korea: Nonlinear Interplay between Categories of Social Networking Sites and Age Groups

This study examines the relationships between the use of social networking sites and political engagement across age groups in Korea. We assess how Koreans’ frequency of visits to four categories of social networking sites (family and friends, celebrities, politicians, and political pundits) is related to two aspects of political engagement (political knowledge and political participation) based on Synovate’s 2010 online survey of 800 Korean adults who were aged from 18 to 59 years. Linear analyses suggest that the use of all four categories of social networking sites is negatively related to political knowledge and is positively related to political participation across all age groups. However, non-linear analyses suggest more nuanced relations between categories of social networking sites and political engagement across age groups; while the middle-aged group (31-49 years old) appears not to gain more political knowledge by visiting politicians’ and political pundits’ social networking sites more frequently, the younger group (18-30 years old) and the older group (50-39 years old) appear to be benefitting by visiting the same social networking sites. On the other hand, the middle-aged group appears to be more politically participating than any other age groups by visiting social networking sites of celebrities, politicians and political pundits more frequently. The middle-aged group members, who can be generally characterized with their multi-layered media diet and moderately high political interests, may be gaining what we could not capture with our political knowledge measures, one of which could be political participation. Future research can investigate the use patterns of the four social networking sites across age groups in more details.

Nojin Kwak is an associate professor at the University of Michigan Dept. of Communication Studies and the director of the Nam Center for Korean Studies. His research centers on the role of communication media in civic and political engagement. His latest article on the role of the mobile phone in public affairs participation in Korea was published in the 2011 October issue of Asian Journal of Communication. Dr. Kwak recently received a top paper award in the Korean American Communication division at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association in May, 2011. He is the lead organizer of the 2012 ICA Preconference "New Media and Citizenship in Asia."

Dr. Scott Campbell's research examines the social implications of new media, with an emphasis on mobile telephony. Current projects investigate how mobile communication patterns are linked to both the private and public spheres of social life, such as social networking and civic engagement. Several of these projects use a comparative approach to situate the role of mobile communication technology in the larger media landscape and across different societies.