Monday, January 13, 2014

Jason Gainous and Kevin M. Wagner's "Tweeting to Power"

Jason Gainous is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. Kevin M. Wagner is Associate Professor of Political Science at Florida Atlantic University.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Tweeting to Power: The Social Media Revolution in American Politics, and reported the following:
Tweeting to Power explores how the Internet, and social media in particular, are changing campaigns and elections in the United States. While we look at the role of social media in many different contexts, by page 99 we are considering the larger change in the political system by this relatively inexpensive and powerful new set of campaigning tools. Instead of expensive mailers or television advertisements, candidates can now organize, fund-raise and manipulate the campaign narrative through social media.

This ability to bring people together and organize their efforts is perhaps the least understood and most important change that the use of technology like social media has wrought. Ironically, every politician and observer of politics knows about or is aware of the often isolated, but still very passionate, segments of the electorate. While never unimportant, the ability of these people, often at the boundaries of most campaigns, was brought to the front when they began to organize and focus their power through the Internet and social media. The Tea Party and are products of a new age, which united otherwise separate and divergent political dissidents into far more effective and sophisticated political movements.

One of the challenges of writing about such a dramatic change in how we conduct our politics is placing the change in a more historical context. This is what we do, in part, on page 99. We take a look back at some of the larger changes that have occurred with the increasing use of the Internet. There are some very interesting early moments that now appear to be milestones in our changing system, though they were not seen so at the time. This was the beginning of Internet advocacy with interest groups that organized online and had a large influence on elections. President Bill Clinton’s use of message boards to promote his candidacy had mixed results, but did show how passionate voters could be reached and activated. More famously, the appeal of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean was revealed though his technology-driven rise to challenge the Democratic establishment back in 2003.

New groups of politically active people are forming regularly on the Internet. How they influence politics and how politics and politicians influence them is a new pivotal element of the modern campaign. It turns out that page 99, is an appropriate test of Tweeting to Power. It demonstrates and re-enforces the running theme of the book that technology has created a new political age for us. As we state plainly on the page, “It is a new world of engagement.”
Read more about Tweeting to Power at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue