Delivered a session at a meeting of US State political leaders on the Effect of Social Media on Political Campaigns. Programme link: NCSL Symposium for US Legislative Leaders. Answered many questions and enjoyed a lively debate in a session that lasted over an hour.
My argument in one sentence is that the relevance of new media is contingent on the volatility of a campaign and the salience of a particular message to the electorate. In other words, political campaigns have not changed. The new media have just made them more volatile.
Detected from the geotags of tweets are three clusters of messages: one with references to other US states and two with clusters of different types of ‘social movement’ rhetoric.
So, while location still matters in politics, “globalising” a local debate may impact the final outcome of a political decision. Although people engage primarily with local issues, a polarising message of high political salience can engage a much wider audience and achieve a “global” political platform for its bearer. This could ultimately leverage their political capital and their impact on the political debate.
An alternative to mapping re-tweets is semantic and sentiment analysis of online data to explore trends in political discourse. Of note is the team led by Arno Scharl, employing the weblyzard technological platform.