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ERIC Number: ED521581
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 158
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1241-1892-5
The Schenectady Virtual Community: Exploring the Ecology of Political Discourse in a Local Context
Baker, Andrea B.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, State University of New York at Albany
From Facebook to Twitter, ordinary citizens' use of social media to discuss, organize, and participate in the political process continues to grow in popularity (Davis, 2005; Rainie, 2005; Kohut, Keeter, Doherty, & Dimock, 2008). Researchers interested in this area have explored the demographics, patterns of behavior and motives of participants in online communities (Stromer-Galley, 2002, 2003), the dynamics of the online discussions (Dahlberg, 2001; Davis, 2005; Wilhelm, 2000), the effect of online participation on other forms of political activity (Brunsting, 2002; Kavanaugh & Patterson, 2001), and more recently the relationship between social media and the conventional press (Hiler, 2002; Park, 2004; Cornfield, 2006; Lenhart & Fox, 2006; Schiffer, 2006; Fanselow, 2009). Most research, however, has examined online communities focused on national political communities. This dissertation research contributes to that line of analysis but instead focuses on an online community, the Schenectady Virtual Internet Community (SVC), which is centered on a local geographic setting, Schenectady, NY. The intent of focusing on a single case such as the SVC was to provide a more thorough understanding of the ecology of political talk in the entire geographic community by analyzing the dynamics between the ordinary citizens who participate online and political elites in the community. Hiler's (2002) emerging media ecosystem, which suggests that social media and conventional media are exchanging information and creating a new discourse ecology, was used as a framework to guide the research. The design of the case study included a survey of SVC participants, a content analysis of a sample of the discussions from the online forum, a content analysis of articles from the local newspaper, the "Daily Gazette", as well as interviews with "Gazette" reporters and government officials in Schenectady. Results from the SVC analysis indicate that the online community had expanded opportunities for ordinary citizens to contribute to the broader public dialogue that was once controlled mainly by journalists and political elites. The SVC had been successful at generating public discussion with more than 650 members and more than 64,000 messages about community issues by 2008. Although most Schenectady politicians avoided participating in the SVC, as noted by other researchers about online political discussion forums in general (Stromer-Galley, 2000), evidence suggests politicians were listening to the online community. Further, a content analysis of more than 100 "Gazette" articles as well as interviews with journalists from the local newspaper demonstrates that the SVC conversations were being incorporated in the broader dialogue. Information posted in online community discussions and the content of citizens' comments appeared in many "Gazette" stories. Thus, the SVC case study demonstrates that online technology can extend the margins of the ecology of political dialogue in a local context by providing an additional public space for citizens to communicate. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New York