Social Media and Civic Participation: Literature Review and Empirical Evidence from Bangladesh and Palestinian Territories

This report examines the changing nature of participation through social media


This report fulfils BBC Media Action’s goal to understand the changing nature of participation through social media and to inform future programme designs with evidence-based research. The paper is organised as follows:

  • Section 2 first sets the context by laying out definitions of media and participation critical in the understanding of this report. Traditional and social media are defined in the context of LDCs, highlighting the unequal penetration between developed and developing countries. While social media use is not as pervasive, its rising predominance warrants deeper analysis. Civic participation is also defined, drawing particular attention to the broadening range of activities available in the online world.

  • Section 3 presents the agenda-setting theory and the communication mediation model (CMM). Evolution of the two concepts is explored in light of the advent of newer media types. In particular, the CMM is drawn upon as a main conceptual framework for analysing the nature of engagement and the subsequent participatory outcome for both traditional and social media.

  • Section 4 adds to the complementary-substitutive debate surrounding social media. Two perspectives on how social media can contribute or hinder social capital formation are presented, drawing particular focus to the network characteristics of social media. This is followed by a discussion on the scholarly debate surrounding the substitutive-complementary role of social media. Further supplemented by data analysis, this report finds that both media platforms play complementary roles in the current media landscape.

  • Section 5 presents the empirical findings on individual and participatory outcomes based on the existing literature and the authors' analysis on the Palestinian Territories survey. The authors found that social media is positively associated with offline civic participation, thereby highlighting its potential for enhancing engagement in LDCs. Based on the findings from the report,

  • Section 6 gives recommendations for further research and future programming that could take complementary role of the media into greater consideration.

See also the Research Briefing prepared for this report.


Bokai, D.; Forero, D.F.; Garcés, P.; Peralta, J.; Shieh, K. Social Media and Civic Participation: Literature Review and Empirical Evidence from Bangladesh and Palestinian Territories. BBC Media Action and The London School of Economics, UK (2013) 61 pp. [LSE MPA Programme Capstone Report]

Published 1 January 2013