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A Little Press, Some Acceptance for Public Officials on Twitter Projects

The Aldermen and Congress on Twitter projects made it into popular press and another conference this morning. You can read the popular press story from the Medill News site and conference abstracts below the jump. The papers investigate connections Aldermen make with their constituents via Twitter and how the language members of Congress use can be used to predict their offline political behaviors.

Everyday Politics: Engaging Chicago Politicians on Twitter

This paper investigates the use of Twitter, a microblogging and social network service, by local Chicago politicians. Twitter provides a public communication medium in which constituents and their representatives can have public conversations that others can witness and record. We collected over 1800 tweets posted by or mentioning Chicago Aldermen or Mayor Rahm Emanuel over the summer of 2011. Using qualitative and social network methods to examine conversations between Chicagoans and representatives in city government, we present data about the content and manner of the tweets as well as the networks formed through social media participation. Through an examination of the users’ “mentioning” behaviors, our analysis indicates that Chicago’s Aldermen and Mayor use Twitter for social conversations more often than political ones and that just two of Chicago’s aldermen dominate the social media conversation. Examining their social media conversations enables us to explore how the city’s politicians frame their issues, position themselves as community leaders, and engage with their constituents.

Going ‘Bald on Record’: Relationships Among Public Officials’ Social Media Behavior and Language Use

Public officials use polarizing language — supporting language for one’s self versus pejorative language for others — as a means of establishing clear boundaries on certain issues. This has been explored to some degree in terms of how such language is conveyed in the traditional media, but minimal research has been done with regard to the role of polarizing language within social media. This paper explores how elected U.S. officials use potentially polarizing language (“civility,” “politeness,” and related forms) to draw in supporters. We analyze the content and behavior of more than 30,000 tweets from the available Twitter accounts of each elected member of Congress, particularly in terms of the nature (size and party composition) of Twitter networks for officials who use polarizing language. Network analysis via Network Workbench and NodeXL confirms that officials’ use Twitter for much more than broadcasting, officials’ interaction networks differ from their follower/friends networks, and polarizing language is not correlated with peripheral locations in a network. These indicate that Twitter plays a more nuanced role in political communication than previously expected.


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