What do Democratic Congressmen Tim Ryan of Ohio, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and George Miller of California have in common with Republican Congressmen Bob Latta of Ohio, John Boehner of Ohio, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, and John Culberson of Texas?
Congress is using the popular micro-blogging social media service called Twitter.
If you don’t know what Twitter is, here is a video explaining Twitter in Plain English.
While Culberson and Ryan may be more known for their twittering (or tweeting, as many use the verb) and are experimenting with other social networking services, Udall’s website already includes links to his Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, Flickr, and Twitter profiles.
Thanks to the Sunlight Foundation, the folks behind a Let Our Congress Tweet campaign, I recently began following their twitter feed and learned yesterday that Ellison is making a comeback, having tweeted for the first time in three months.
He wrote to his now-86-numbered followers: “Touring the new 35-W Mississippi bridge with Mn/DOT. One year anniversary of the collapse is on Friday.”
The notion of congressional tweeters reached public light in late June, shortly after Massachusetts Congressman Michael Capuano urged web reform via his role chairing the franking commission. I explored that and other new media priorities identifying why government must embrace technology.
Congress’ usage of Twitter and other social media services are a clear embrace of technology, don’t you agree?
Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and other “new media have become the town square of our political culture,” insists American University professor of communications Leonard Steinhorn in a recent CNN story.
Of course, the power of new media, social media, Web 2.0, call it what you will, is that bloggers, reporters, and citizen journalists are taking to the street and scooping stories hours before the mainstream media awakes and can publish or broadcast. In this sense, everything is fair game and nothing is off limits.
The French one, Ars Technica, has a story by Jerry Brito (here’s his Twitter feed) titled, “Can Congress tweet? Should bloggers care?“
Since the initial outburst of activity, however, the blogosphere has been relatively silent on the issue, which one imagines should be near and dear to its geek heart. The silence has been especially deafening from bloggers on the political left who are best positioned to influence the House Democratic leadership’s position.
In this 5-minute video, the type of media that Capuano and the franking commission want to prohibit congressional members from doing, Culberson talks about his nonpartisan campaign to push away from the stigma that new media is something “new” but ought to be treated the same as traditional “old” media of newspapers and TV stations.
“I want to become a real-time representative,” podcasts Culberson from his Texas district office. “This is the way to communicate in the 21st century.”
This echoes with Steinhorn, the communications professor, who said, “[M]uch of what we do culturally, politically, and socially is in a virtual community rather than a tangible one.”
Culberson writes every Twitter message personally, as he recently tweeted to me. I don’t live in Texas and have never met the man, but I think it is very cool that he’s doing what many of his colleagues, unfortunately, are not.
I’d love to send Twitter messages to my Massachusetts delegation and have the congressmen themselves respond, not a lowly staffer. But until that’s an option, I’ll tweet across the bipartisan line to Culberson, Ryan, Udall, and Ellison… and Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) who is expected to join the Twitter bandwagon in the coming days.
What about you? Do you have a Twitter account? (Or do you use an alternative microblogging service, such as Plurk, Pownce, or Tumblr?)
Whether you’re tech-savvy or not, wouldn’t you want to converse in real-time with elected officials at all levels of government? Wouldn’t that help bring government alive, improve communication, shrink the seven degrees of separation, bridge the digital divide, and shake the dust out of apathetic voters?