Retooling Politics

How Digital Media Are Shaping Democracy

In 2020, I published my second book Retooling Politics: How Digital Media Are Shaping Democracy (Cambridge University Press), with Andreas Jungherr and Daniel Gayo-Avello. In the book, we use a needs-based framework to study the flow and reach of political information, the role of data in politics, and the impact of digital tools on contestation, political organizations, and democracy at large.

What are the effects of this retooling of politics? Do digital media empower the powerless or are they breaking democracy? Have these new tools and practices fundamentally changed politics or is their impact just a matter of degree? In this clear-eyed guide, we step back from hyperbolic hopes and fears and try to offer a balanced account of what aspects of politics are being shaped by digital media and what remains unchanged.

Praise for the book

Jungherr, Rivero and Gayo-Avello’s Retooling Politics is simply exquisite. By all means this book represents one of the finest accounts I have come across to explain why and how digital media is the largest and most profound transformative power in today’s democracy. With a comprehensive, meticulous, and sharp use of the most current and influential literature in the social sciences, the authors build a brilliant and multi-disciplinary argument that will guide readers to better grasp how digital media has transformed our political realm.

Homero Gil de Zúñiga, University of Vienna

Retooling Politics is simply the best book I have read on politics in the digital age. The authors show how political actors use legacy media, digital platforms, and data driven strategies to change how public information is produced, distributed, received, evaluated and used. This book updates the entire field with a timely focus on contemporary problems of democracy. It is destined to become a classic.

W. Lance Bennett, University of Washington

The effects of digital media on politics and democracy are far-reaching, diverse, quickly evolving, and difficult to grasp. Retooling Politics is an essential resource for anyone trying to make sense of the connection between digital media and politics - and to understand what we actually know about it.

Fabrizio Gilardi, University of Zurich

Retooling Politics offers a fresh and nuanced ‘needs-based’ framework for analyzing the effects of digital media on political life. This is a necessary book that cuts through hyperbole in its grounded, procedural analysis of what has actually changed in politics, from how organizations pursue their ends to the voices that count in public life.

Daniel Kreiss, UNC Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life

All over the world, old political goals are pursued with new political tools. Retooling Politics’ needs-based approach presents a nuanced new way of thinking about the impact not on specific political outcomes, or on the basic goals of political actors, but on the practical and institutional process of politics. Thus, this book will help combat the catchy but simplistic narratives advanced by digital cheerleaders and doom-mongers and contribute to more realistic and evidence-based alternatives.

Rasmus Nielsen, University of Oxford

This book gives a nuanced analysis of digital media in politics, focusing on political actors’ needs, flows and costs of information, and connections to publics. The authors offer readers a careful and systematic approach to the big question of whether digital media strengthen or undermine democracy.