Digitalization is the most dominant signature of the 21st century so far. Society, economy and politics are equally affected by a multitude of implications that digitalization embodies. The Internet and social media not only multiplied the communications channels in an unprecedented way but also have a substantial impact on the interaction between politicians and citizens as well as all societal actors. Formerly more or less institutionalized channels of communication between on one side politicians and media, on the other side media and citizens have been replaced by a myriad of decentralized networks.
While actors in politics and media formerly steered communications flows digital based networks result to be unpredictable in their scope, scale, virality and therefore in their impact. Opinion building and decision making processes are increasingly influenced by the functional logic of digital media like the acceleration and synchronicity of information, the multimodality of the messages, the interactivity and connectedness of providers and users. This is true for domestic as well as for international politics. The dissolution of communicative boundaries creates a new transnational space of connectedness on all levels of agency. In consequence, ideas, norms and values spread more easily and rapidly; in the same way the diffusion of policies or institutional elements, governance techniques are facilitated.
Moreover, the idea of a new ‘liberation technology’ resulted to be premature. Although protest movements all over the world recurr to social networks like Facebook and Twitter it became apparent that autocratic regimes prove equal in using social media for their purposes and even more: they steadily develop subtle mechanisms of control.
For the discipline of Political Science digitalization implies two challenges: On one side the subjects of research are concerned: national as well as international actors, communication between government and societal actors, the relation between politicians and citizens, aspects of political economy, aspects of regulation, e-governance and net politics, diplomacy cybercrimes and cyberwar etc. On the other side, digitalization influences the academic sphere in terms of research as well as in terms of teaching and learning; and finally the practical dimension is concerned as political consulting and policy recommendations may depend to a large extend on a different state of knowledge or different demands of consultation.