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.
One of the cases I demonstrated was Twitter data collected by Juergen Pfeffer on the Wendy Davies filibuster.
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.
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