Second Screens for Engagement with Political Discourse

  • Katerina Gorkovenko

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Today elections and referendums are contested across multiple media platforms working in tandem, including traditional media, particularly television, and digital outlets including social media. While in the past citizens had limited opportunities to engage directly with political campaigns, today these new channels offer a wide variety of ways to interact with the public, media and politicians. Televised debates in particular are accompanied by vast amounts of online content, much of it conducted through the use of second screens—personal devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops used alongside television broadcasts.

    This research has been motivated by the belief that second screens present an invaluable opportunity to engage the public in political discourse. They can give debate viewers a platform to engage with each other, find factual campaign information and facilitate social movements. However, recent research has been critical of the way social media in particular supports political discourse. So-called “fake news” hinders our ability to find factual information, filter bubbles limit the scope of opinions we are exposed to, while fear of trolling creates a barrier to online participation. In order to understand the issues and opportunities for second screens, we need to investigate how and why the public uses them, and where they fit into this wider media landscape.

    In this thesis I aim to investigate current second screen practices, and to find design opportunities for tools that support viewers in their engagement with debates and with each other. I utilise a varied methodological approach in order to gather insights from a variety of different stakeholders and from the real-life situational context of debate viewing. I investigate current second screen practices through at-home observations and an analysis of tweets generated live during a debate, which contribute insights into how and why debate viewers use their personal devices. I further explored the role of new technologies in fostering social experiences for debate viewers. Through an in- the-wild deployment of a series of internet-connected research products I contribute considerations for future solutions and challenge the dominance of traditional screen-based interactions. Through speculative designs, workshops, and interviews, I contribute design directions for future second screen tools. I achieve this by investigating viewer and expert perspectives on the larger issues with political discourse online and how they can be addressed through second screens. The findings from these studies aim to generate considerations for existing social media platforms, politicians, and broadcasters, and inform the development and design of new second screens, which cater to the needs of the debate audience.
    Date of Award2019
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
    SupervisorNick Taylor (Supervisor) & Jon Rogers (Supervisor)


    • second screens
    • social media
    • television
    • political debates
    • HCI
    • politics
    • political discourse

    Cite this