For my writing & communications class we have to research a topic of our choosing for an intensive paper. For my assignment I chose to investigate social media and politics. I chose it because I have always been very interested in the political process, especially policy writing and legislation. This topic is intentionally very broad. My research has covered everything from predicting elections, to forming policy and voter turnout.
One article that I found during my research was The Policy Sciences of Social Media, which investigates how policy is formed and goes through the legislative process when influenced by social media. This interested me because I have worked on policy implementation and legislative processes before but never really thought about how they could intertwine. Mostly the article discusses how digital tools like Twitter, Facebook, and the online petition maker change.org have changed the way people interact with their legislators and express their issues with specific policies. With these tools it has become increasingly difficult for politicians to avoid the comments and opinions from their constituents.
Another article I consulted is Predicting Elections with Twitter: What 140 Characters Reveal about Political Sentiment. This article uses a 2009 German election to gauge whether it is possible to predict the outcome of an election using social media. The authors found that when they compared the data to the actual election results there is a correlation between the number of tweets about a party and that party’s election result. This is interesting because if it is possible to predict elections using social media then it means that the people who are on social media might be more likely to vote or be interested in the political process than people that refrain from using these digital tools. It also means that advertising might be more effective over the internet rather than spending money on it elsewhere.
However, another source entirely disagrees with the predicting elections article. In his article I Wanted to Predict Elections with Twitter and all I got was this Lousy Paper, Daniel Gayo-Avello asserts that it is impossible to predict elections with any type of social media and that there are inherent flaws in every paper that proves contrary. The things he says are wrong include the lack of diversity, the unpredictability of the data, and the lack of reality within the digital realm.
All of these sources have helped me to understand more about the digital age, this country and politics. They show me that we are just beginning to dig into what is possible to do with media tools can do for us. As the American political system becomes more and more divided, and our news migrates from the paper and television to the Internet, social media will become more of a way to see the direction in which our country is going. It will become the way in which we poll, the way in which we share our sentiment, and the lay of the land in connecting with the legislature. People will become more involved in their own political process instead of shying away from it.