Volume 7, Issue 4 - August 2012Print | Email

Follow the Leader: How Twitter Influences the Relationship between Political Leaders and the Public

Follow_the_Leader_image_1While it is only six years old, the microblog Twitter has become a major player in terms of political discourse. Every week, political leaders send thousands of short messages, called tweets, to millions of people who choose to follow them on Twitter. The effects of political tweets are remarkable. Surveys and in-depth interviews done with political Twitter users revealed that Twitter has changed how people engage politically. Followers regularly take actions that are requested in leaders’ tweets. In addition, political tweets are often more influential on followers’ political views than any other source, including friends and family. More information about these and other findings in the study can be found here.

With a 140-character limit, tweets might seem too small to impact campaigning and governing. Yet today Twitter is used by more than 175 million people worldwide, and more than 30 billion tweets have been sent. In the U.S., political Twitter users include the President, most governors, members of Congress, mayors of large metropolitan areas, and candidates for major offices.

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Cross Current

Ghostbusting in the Research Methods Classroom

Instructors CornerWhen I teach my introduction to communication research methods course, I am always surprised by the number of students who struggle in understanding how the scientific method really works.  To help them better understand this method and become more skeptical of many of the claims they find in messages on television and the Internet, I take the class on a ghost hunt.  I use this activity so they can experience a typical paranormal investigation for themselves and see how these investigations fall short of being considered valid science.

I usually schedule this activity for around 10 p.m. on a Friday night so it will be less likely to disrupt the students’ weekday schedule.  Even though this is a voluntary, out of class activity, I am always surprised by the large number of students who participate.  I can sense the students’ growing excitement as we spend some time talking about various ghost hunting techniques we can use.  To make this activity appear more real to the participants, I prefer using a location with some previous reports of paranormal activity but almost any location where permission can be obtained for access will work. A local cemetery or even a patch of dark woods should work fine, especially if some stories can be told about the nature of the haunting, even if made up, before the event takes place.

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Communicators Speak

Communicators Speak

One of the semi-regular features of Communication Currents is "Communicators Speak," which offers commentary from those in the communication discipline on topics timely and relevant to our audience.  As the August issue is the traditional "back to school" issue, we’re calling attention to the return to the classroom for the fall semester.

As you know, the fall semester of 2012 brings with it one of the most hotly contested Presidential campaigns in recent memory—that between incumbent President Barack Obama and his challenger, former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney. Given the attention that will be paid to the Presidential and other political campaigns this fall, we’re spotlighting the activities of those in the communication discipline around the various campaigns.

So, we asked readers how they plan to involve their students in the Presidential or other political campaigns this fall.  Here’s what they shared with us….

The 2012 Presidential campaign provides an excellent opportunity for learning about public speaking. Viewing and analyzing the speeches of Presidential candidates is a pragmatic way to help students recognize how professional speakers use public speaking techniques to influence their audiences. Because students learn through direct experience and application of knowledge, I plan to show students segments of each candidate’s campaign speech from the Republican and Democratic conventions.

To begin, I will ask students to analyze these speech segments in light of concepts they are learning, especially in the areas of rhetorical appeals and speech delivery. After learning about rhetorical appeals, students will analyze each candidate’s use of ethos, pathos, and logos to make his persuasive appeal. Through this analysis, students learn how rhetorical appeals can weaken or strengthen the quality of a public speech. After learning about effective delivery, students will evaluate how each candidate uses his voice and body to interact effectively with his audience. Thus, students will evaluate vocal elements, such as: rate, pauses, volume, rhythm, pitch, and fluency, and enunciation. Additionally, students will evaluate how well the candidates use their bodies by analyzing: eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, motivated movement, and attire.

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Communicating Gender on Reality TV

Every day, millions of viewers tune into television programming that is based on “reality.” While questions of gender and gender representation on reality TV are a hot topic of communication debate, TLC’s hit reality series—Police Women of Broward County (PWBC)— provides a noteworthy site for debate as it follows the lives of women who have “made it” in a “man’s world.”

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Japanese Anime Heroines as Role Models for U.S. Youth

Japanese_Anime_1How do U.S. fans interact with their favorite anime characters?  Why do some fans dress up like anime characters? Or learn to speak Japanese?
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Journalists and Emergency Managers Discuss Disaster Response

Journalists_and_Emergency_Managers_image_1Communication is critical in a disaster, both in the emergency response, and in increasing public knowledge. In fact, we know effective media coverage can save lives in a disaster by increasing the quality of decisions made by the public.
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Teleworkers: A little less communication, please!

Teleworkers_image_1Telework has become an increasingly prevalent work arrangement in the U.S., but adoption has been somewhat slower than originally predicted. In part, this may be linked to the assumption that working remotely isolates employees and in turn may inhibit their development of a sense of organizational identification, or feelings of belonging and attachment to the organization.
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Failed Theories of Gender Difference in Media Professions

Failed_Theories_of_Gender_image_1Many theories and concepts have been proposed to explain the difference that gender makes or should make in mass communication professions. Gender difference might intuitively seem an easier way—compared to fairness or the inherent moral goodness of ending sexism—to justify efforts to hire and promote women in professions such as journalism.
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Home Page | Follow the Leader: How Twitter Influences the Relationship between Political Leaders and the Public | Ghostbusting in the Research Methods Classroom | Communicators Speak | Communicating Gender on Reality TV | Japanese Anime Heroines as Role Models for U.S. Youth | Journalists and Emergency Managers Discuss Disaster Response | Teleworkers: A little less communication, please! | Failed Theories of Gender Difference in Media Professions 
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