Sociologia della comunicazione

Public Sector Communication : hybridizations and trajectories of development in the digital era

Réponse attendue pour le 15/09/2020

Type de réponse Résumé

Type de contribution attendue Article

Nom de la publication Sociologia della comunicazione



In recent years, international scholars have increased their research interest and studies on the transformations and challenges that have affected public sector communication related to digital disruption and the great development of social media (Canel, Luoma-aho 2019 ; Lovari, Valentini 2020 ; Luoma-aho, Canel 2020).

In a condition of an ongoing economic and social crisis, which has assumed dramatic dimensions in the current pandemic related to Covid-19, public sector communication can play a crucial role when it integrates the most advanced digital technologies, it is transparent, participatory, and based on a culture of service (Faccioli 2001 ; Zémor 1995). Indeed, public communication is recognized essential for (re) building a relationship based on trust between institutions and citizens, constantly challenged in the connected society (Ducci 2017 ; Lovari 2013).

In a profoundly changed socio-communicative context, characterized by hybrid and convergent media ecosystems (Chadwick 2013 ; Jenkins et al. 2013), keywords and principles such as transparency, listening, participation, simplification, which have always characterized the process of modernization the public sector organizations, find new methods of implementation and remediation in digital environments (Bessières 2018 ; Solito 2018 ; Dahlgren 2009 ; D’Ambrosi, Massoli 2014). This special issue (61/2021) of the scientific journal « Sociology of Communication » is therefore devoted to investigate how the development of digital technologies and social media has opened up new scenarios and created innovative opportunities for public sector communication on a global level. Indeed, thanks to social media, communication can really become citizen-oriented, and it can innovate its practices and strategies towards the media and other strategic publics, in a constant tension between experimentation and normalization processes (Mergel, Bretschneider 2013 ; Materassi, Solito, Pezzoli 2019).

At the same time, the general distrust toward institutions together with the digital activism of citizens have created new challenges and highlighted critical issues requiring innovative skills and competences for public sector communicators from a technological, communicative, ethical and managerial point of views (Bowen 2013 ; Criado et al. 2017 ; Zavattaro, Sementelli 2014).

External and internal organizational communication flows are increasingly articulated and fluid today. Indeed, communication overflows from traditional institutional boundaries (Solito 2018), thus increasing the complexity of its strategic governance within public sector organizations.

This also implies the duty to find a new alignment between institutional communication, government communication and political communication within administrations and more in general in the public sector (Canel, Luhoma-aho 2019).
The increased possibilities of managing and caring a self-produced digital communication, more direct, less asymmetrical, more bidirectional and with high potential for engagement with citizens, stakeholders, or employees, can reduce the risk of communication distortions, increasing the sense of proximity of the institutions and enabling innovative practices of public participation in administrative life.

At the same time, however, communications about public sector is growing (Mancini 2002) : discursive practices on subjects of general interest are constantly spreading, together with practices and voices which are fed no longer only by legacy media coverage, but by the multiple actors that inhabit digital environments and social media (e.g., citizens, associations, influencers, other institutions, etc.), thus increasing the communicative entropy and the difficulty of give visibility to institutional flows, often trapped by algorithms and social media logic.

These new challenges impact on organizational processes, professional profiles and training in public sector, highlighting the importance of enhancing the communication function in public organizations.

The following areas of research interest are highlighted as examples. Proposal could adopt a comparative perspective or could dedicate a specific attention to national contexts, through theoretical reflections or with empirical studies. In particular :

  • comparative studies to investigate how communication function is conceived and practiced in different countries (international framework of studies on the discipline) ;
  • impact of social media on public sector communication, taking into account the different “souls” of public institutions and administrations (administrative, political, managerial) ;
  • public sector communication and crisis or emergency communication (e.g., pandemic crisis linked to Covid-19) ;
  • public sector communication and misinformation ;
  • communication strategies to support participatory and co-creation processes in the public sphere at local, national or supranational level ;
  • analysis of communication campaigns and the transformations of styles and communication registers following the digital revolution (e.g., visual communication, institutional storytelling, etc.) ;
  • gender and inclusion issues in digital public communication ;
  • public sector communication and the challenge of artificial intelligence and big data.

Authors interested in submitting a contribution are invited to send an abstract of 2500-3500 characters in English (excluding the references) by 15 September 2020 to the guest editors of this special issue, at the following addresses : ;
The abstract must clearly show :

  • the objectives of the article,
  • the debates and theoretical background,
  • the research questions, the methodology and the main results achieved
  • references

This call will also be circulated among the participants in the 6th World Conference on Media and Mass Communication (MEDCOM) 2020 to be held at the University of Cagliari (Italy) in June 2021. In the process of abstracts’ selection, the proposals that address an advancement of knowledge and elements of innovation in the current scientific debate, in theoretical, methodological or empirical evidence, will be privileged, contextualizing the proposal in the international debate, even if the study concerns a specific national context.

If the abstract proposal will be accepted by the journal (the outcome of the selection will be communicated by 10 October 2020), the authors will have to upload an unpublished article in English, of 40.000-45.000 characters, on the platform of the journal Sociologia della Comunicazione, accompanied by an abstract of 600-750 characters and an author profile of 300-500 characters by January 15, 2021, simultaneously sending communication to the guest editors ( ;

Authors are asked to adopt the editorial rules that can be downloaded from the journal’s website in order to edit the article. The articles will be subjected to a double-blind review process and their publication will depend on the outcome of the evaluation. A maximum of 7 articles will be published in the special issue.

Editor (2019-2021) : Roberta Bartoletti


Bowen S. A (2013), “Using classic social media cases to distill ethical guidelines for digital engagement”, Journal of Mass Media Ethics : Exploring Questions of Media Morality, 28(2), 119-133.

Canel M.J., V. Luoma-aho (eds. 2019), Public Sector Communication, Wiley Blackwell, New York.
Bessières D. (2018), “L’hybridité : une composante ancienne mais aujourd’hui démultipliée de la communication publique”, Recherches en Communication, 47, 5-21.

Chadwick (2013), The hybrid media system. Politics and power, Oxford University Press, Oxford-New York.

Criado I.J., Rojas-Martin F., Gil-Garcia R.J. (2017), “Enacting social media success in local public administrations : an empirical analysis of organizational, institutional and contextual factors”, International Journal of Public Sector Management, 30,1, 2-14.

Dahlgren P. (2009), Media and Political Engagement. Cizizens, Communication and Democracy, Cambridge University Press, New York.

D’Ambrosi L., Massoli L. (2014), “Environmental Movements, Institutions and Civil Society : A New Way to Preserve Common Goods”, Partecipazione e Conflitto, n.7, 657-681.

Ducci G. (2017), Relazionalità consapevole. La comunicazione pubblica nella società connessa, FrancoAngeli, Milano. Faccioli F. (2000), Comunicazione pubblica e cultura del servizio, Carocci, Roma.

Jenkins H., S. Ford S., and J. Green (2013), Spreadable media. Creating value and meaning in a networked culture, New York University Press, New York.

Lovari A. (2013), Networked citizens. Comunicazione pubblica e amministrazioni digitali, FrancoAngeli, Milano. Lovari A., Valentini C. (2020), “Public Sector Communication and Social Media. Opportunities and Limits of Current

Policies, Activities, and Practices”, in Handbook of Public Sector Communication, edited by V. Luoma-aho, M.J. Canel, Wiley Blackwell, New York, pp. 315-328.

Luoma-aho L., Canel M.J. (2020), Handbook of Public Sector Communication, Wiley Blackwell, New York.

Mancini P. (2002), Manuale di comunicazione pubblica, Editori Laterza, Roma-Bari.

Mergel I., S.I. Bretschneider (2013), “A Three Stage Adoption Process for Social Media Use in Government”, Public Administration Review, May-June, 73(3):390-400.

Solito L. (2018), “Comunicazione istituzionale e società digitale. Un nuovo ruolo per i comunicatori pubblici”, Comunicazione Politica, 3 : 393-412.

Solito L., Pezzoli S., Materassi L. (2019), “Prove di « maturità ». Social media e bisogni informativi della cittadinanza”, Problemi dell’Informazione, 44, 339-363

Zavattaro S.M., Sementelli A.J. (2014), “A critical examination of social media adoption in government : introducing omnipresence”, Government Information Quarterly, 31, 257-64.

Zémor P. (1995), La communication publique, Paris:PUF