Last Friday, I was invited to the Envisioning California Conference sponsored by the Center for California Studies to speak on a panel on emerging social networking sites. As part of my own research, I have studied the intersection between new media and politics. This includes research on both Facebook and Twitter.
My panel was titled Changing the Golden State in 140 Characters or Less. Other panelists included John Myers, the political editor for News 10 which is the ABC affiliate in Sacramento, Steve Maviglio, the principal of Forza Communications, and Molly Dugan, associate professor of Communications at Sacramento State. Both Steve and John are well known in state politics and this conference is well-attended by journalists, consultants, agency staff, and state workers. In comparison to most academic conferences, the dialogue here is at the front lines of politics. Most attendees interact with the political process on a daily basis and directly influence policy at the local and state level.
My (hopeful) contribution as an academic was to discuss social media in academic research. Regardless of our own perspectives, I think we could all agree that the social media has the potential to actively engage citizens in politics. The discussion on Friday’s panel tackled the tough questions of how Buy Viagra social media engages the public.
While I could ramble on about the panel, one of the most interesting moments was the juxtaposition of social networking sites amongst different “political industries”. I’m an academic and I am active on several social networking sites for both my job and own personal use. However, it was interesting to hear about the functional differences of social media sites for people across a wide range of political use. Professional staff use social media for the press release, journalists use social media to construct stories, and academics use social media to publicize their research.
For me, the most important takeaway is that regardless of its use, social networking sites provide a direct and rapid way to widely disseminate information to the general public. While we can argue that the effect of new media is muted, this panel demonstrates that social networking sites are responsible for generating a great deal of high quality political information. Pessimism is abound when discussing new media. However, this panel was a productive and informative conversation that was a firsthand demonstration of how social networking sites are actively used in politics. In the coming years, social networking sites will only play a more significant role in how academics come to understand politics.