Research Proposal

7 09 2009

“The Future of Interactive Media in Government: Redefining Relationships among Constituents and Agencies”

It seems that with each passing day, more and more people actively utilize cutting edge forms of communication tools in order to enhance their personal or professional lives. Taking this into consideration while thinking about the topic I would propose for research in COM 530, it struck me, why should politicians and government agencies be any different? The more I considered this idea, the more questions and potential solutions began to evolve in my mind. To some degree, this should not be surprising. As a communications major while an undergraduate, I maintained my interest in politics. This is why I minored in political science.  More recently, I have had an interest in the intersection of communications and its application to modern politics. As a result, this has served as the primary driving force behind my decision to pursue the aforementioned research topic.

The proliferation of communication tools and methodologies seem to present an increasing array of means by which average citizens can express themselves. However, even in the midst of these changes, there still seems to be numerous people from all walks of life who complain that they have little-to-no-voice in politics. Considering the fundamental foundation of the Unites States’ government is meant to provide an equal voice for all people, it seems strange that people feel they are not being heard. This is why I am a firm believer that interactive media can and will play an incredibly dynamic role in reshaping the relationships between citizens, their representatives and government agencies.

The value of this research topic is multifaceted. For politicians, interactive means of communications can serve as the basis of reinvigorating their mindset on why they are elected officials. By establishing and maintaining active means of communications with their constituents, the focus of politicians actions are continually guided by the insight and feedback from those that elected them. This may help to cut down on the influence of special interest groups, especially on the federal level. If more people feel their representative is being guided by their input, a greater sense of trust and satisfaction is likely to result between both sides. Furthering this line of thinking, interactive communications can spearhead the illusive issue of transparency in government. Analogous to a repeating record, the public seems to decry government officials when massive budget bills are passed into law every year and huge sums of money are allocated to programs nobody has ever heard of. To eliminate this uproar politicians can post their position on issues on their websites, ask for public comment, post bills they are considering sponsoring or simply elaborate on their own feelings of highly specific topics concerning targeted constituents within their represented district; and that is just the beginning.

The methodology for this proposed research could take numerous forms. A content analysis may be appropriate to investigate the levels of interactivity present among different government entities online, either individual politicians or entire government agencies. One necessity will be the interviewing of political figures and possibly interactive professionals to gauge their perspective on the future of interactivity in politics. One political figure who has been an innovator by harnessing interactive technology to communicate with constituents is Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker. Another potential expert in politics who has experience studying communications is Elon University professor of political science Laura Roselle. Stephanie Vance, a former Capital Hill staffer and author of the book “Government by the People: How to Communicate with Congress” might be a useful resource in understanding the current state of communications between and among government bodies. The Congressional Management Foundation, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit, would be an ideal research venue as it focuses on ways to make Congress operate more efficiently by centering on bettering the means of communications between citizens and elected officials. More specifically, Tim Hysom, Director of Communication and Technology Services, seems to be a strong interview prospect based upon his work at the organization which includes several articles and projects that center on changing communication relationships.

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2 responses

15 09 2009
Stephanie Vance

Hey there – thanks for the shout out! I appreciate it and agree this would be a good research topic. Another potential source of expertise / information could be the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University. Their URL is http://www.ipdi.org/

Good luck!

30 09 2009
Laura Roselle

You should take a look at the piece by Mark Bowden (The Story Behind the Story) in the Atlantic this month. It touches on a number of the issues we discussed today.

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