Salla-Maaria Laaksonen, Communication research Centre CRC and Consumer Society Research Centre, University of Helsinki
Matti Nelimarkka, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT and Department of Computer Science, Aalto University & University of Helsinki
Jesse Haapoja, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT and Department of Computer Science, Aalto University
Previous research on Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) has focused on the characteristic of users and the electoral outcomes, but the social and public role of VAAs remains unexplored. This article studies VAAs as platforms that shape political discussion during elections. We conceptualize VAAs as technical artifacts that act as boundary objects between candidates, voters, and the media during the campaigning period. Using a large data set of tweets and a set of six thematic interviews with VAA designers, we demonstrate how VAAs work as interfaces that reside between different communities and that enable the transfer of knowledge and views across community boundaries. In the light of our analysis, VAAs are performative platforms, who facilitate the voter’s decision-making, offer technological affordances to shape this activity more public, and encourage interaction between voters and candidates. For voters they also appear as resources used to construct political identities. Finally, our analysis reveals the political and purposeful nature of VAAs: they are used by both NGOs and by media as promotional vehicles for agenda-building and marketing.