University Class Examines Presidential Election and Social Media

"Election Class" at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University will examine how candidates use emerging technology, especially social media, as a part of their strategies during this year’s election. Rather than exploring the political issues affecting the campaign, students will examine the tactics and tools used in a campaign, curate information and opinions expressed over social media networks, and follow the tactics actively used by candidates in this year’s election.

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Election Class Website

Election Class Website

The Founding Fathers could not have envisioned Twitter. I want students to examine the electoral process and see if it is still effective, and if it isn’t, how it should change.

Syracuse, NY (PRWEB) September 02, 2012

As the Information Age impacts so many facets of our culture, it is inevitable that social media and other emerging technologies will likewise have an impact our nation’s electoral process. This semester, students at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool) will have the opportunity to examine how these aspects of American culture blend together in a new and unique class, “Social Media and the 2012 Election.”

Taught by iSchool Assistant Professor of Practice Anthony Rotolo, the course will examine how candidates use emerging technology, especially social media, as a part of their strategies during this year’s election. Rather than exploring the political issues affecting the campaign, students will examine the tactics and tools used in a campaign, curate information and opinions expressed over social media networks, and follow the tactics actively used by candidates in this year’s election.

Although the class has a political backdrop, Rotolo expressed that the class’ technological focus makes the iSchool the perfect place to host such a unique class. “The iSchool is the place where we study the use and impact of information, and it has established itself as a leader with social media curriculum,” says Rotolo. If there is any place where such a grand course on the election and social media will take place, it should be the iSchool.”

Social Media and the 2012 Election does not follow the traditional college class structure. Students are required to live tweet during class using the hashtag #ElectionClass to express opinions and ideas about the topics covered in class. Students will also have the opportunity to apply what they learn in class through a mock campaign to become the president of “Amercia,” a play on the gaff Mitt Romney made during his own campaign this year. For this project, students will be divided into groups where they will select a student to represent their team and participate in the election. The class will hold debates and create campaign advertisements where students will have the opportunity to use the strategies they learned in class to apply to their own campaigns. These groups will also have the opportunity to withdraw from the race or “fire” a campaign official if necessary. For Andrew Pregler, a Syracuse University sophomore studying broadcast journalism and information management & technology, the campaign is an opportunity to apply campaign strategies he may use as a part of a future career. “This class will help me learn how to look at social media from an analytic and marketing perspective,” says Pregler. “These strategies will be useful not only in broadcasting, but could also be a useful tool to help make use of social media for political purposes.”

Rotolo wants to ensure that students have a realistic experience of being personally invested in the political process during class. “This is the most I have ever asked of my students in any class because they will be so personally invested in the work they do for their mock campaign,” says Rotolo. “Students need to realize that every part of their strategy and any action taken can make or ruin a campaign.”

As students strategize their own campaigns, the class will follow how the candidates utilize emergent technologies during the election to reach their publics. Rotolo will challenge students to come forward with developments on the campaign by tracking online culture and content created because of the election. Although the class will have lesson plans scheduled for each week, Rotolo is accepting and ready to follow the developments and changes that occur throughout the election. “The major challenge is teaching a class about something that hasn’t happened yet, but we are ready and able to adjust the plans according to what happens during the campaign,” Rotolo says.

Because the presidential election and class election will occur at the same time, both political races will culminate with voting and an election party on November 6. The class will follow the returns in real time using social media tools to analyze the election on Twitter in correlation with the national results by capturing thousands of tweets and analyzing keywords. Students will be able to compare results on a color-changing electoral map to watch the polls for changes in real time.

Although the class will feature several major speakers throughout the semester, and the Obama for America Campaign will speak to the class following the election to react to the campaign results and discuss its strategy.

While students examine social media strategies, they will also begin to question how social media impacts the electoral process, how the nation obtains information about candidates, and how candidates share their platforms over emerging media and technology. By examining these issues, Rotolo hopes students will evaluate the current election system and its effectiveness with current technological developments. “The Founding Fathers could not have envisioned Twitter,” says Rotolo. “I want students to examine the electoral process and see if it is still effective, and if it isn’t, how it should change. Will social media allow us to unify and vote as one nation? Is that necessarily a good thing?”


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