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Social Networking and Constitutent Communication: Member Use of Twitter During a Two-Week Period in the 111th Congress
Matthew Eric Glassman (au); Jacob R. Straus (au); Colleen J. shogan (au)
During the past 15 years, the development of new electronic technologies has altered the traditional patterns of communication between Members of Congress and constituents. Many Members now use e-mail, official websites, blogs, Youtube channels, and Facebook pages to communicate with their constituents — technologies that were either non-existent or not widely available 15 years ago. These technologies have arguably served to potentially enhance the ability of Members of Congress to fulfill their representational duties by providing greater opportunities for communication between the Member and individual constituents, supporting the fundamentaldemocratic role of spreading information about public policy and government operations. In addition, electronic technology has reduced the marginal cost of constituent communications; unlike postal letters, Members can reach large numbers of constituents for a fixed cost. But electronic communications have raised some concerns. Existing law and chamber regulations on the use of communication media such as the franking privilege have proven difficult to adapt to the new electronic technologies. This report examines Member use of one specific new electronic communication medium: Twitter. After providing an overview and background of Twitter, the report analyzes patterns of Member use of Twitter during two one-week periods in July and August 2009. This report is inherently a snapshot in time of a dynamic process. As with any new technology, the number of Members using Twitter and the patterns of use may change rapidly in short periods of time. Thus, the conclusions drawn from this data can not be easily generalized nor can these results be used to predict future behavior. Figures.
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