The population of the United States continues to soar, approaching nearly 325 million people. Electing an individual to support, represent, and embody that many people is nearly an impossible task. Clay Shirky (2002) distinguishes a difference between communities and audiences by the connections or relationships between its members and the means information is able to be spread. Communities tend to be much smaller and have closer connections, leading to information traveling directly between members. The opposite is true regarding audiences. An audience can be essentially innumerable, with loose connections and information traveling one direction.
Shirky (2002) explored how as a group size reaches approximately 30,000; the number of potential connections surpasses a billion. The sheer size of these larger groups prevents interconnectivity between members of groups. These fundamental aspects transform a United States’ populace into an audience during an election. Modern day technology, specifically, web forums, blogs, social media sites, etc. allow for the formation of communities or something resembling a community to form within an audience. Individuals find relatively small bands of like-minded individuals. This separation of members and lack of connections, may be in part responsible for approximately 40% of eligible voters not participating in the election.
As early as 2001, Shirky (2011) gives credit to technology for preventing President Joseph Estrada of being absolved of well known corruption. Specifically responsible, a message reading, “Go 2 EDSA. Wear Blk.”, for organizing over a million people for a protest within four days. Online resources have since been involved in many cases of civil unrest. Not ever scenario brought about successful results. The results of the Presidential 2016 election were influenced by rallies and rhetoric spread via online resources. March 4, some sixty rallies were held in support of the United States President across the country. Rallies like these may play a role in the 2020 election. Shirky (2011) explains this evolvement of the, “developing public sphere, where public opinion relies on both media and conversation, is the core of the environmental view of Internet freedom.” Shirky goes on to expand upon a process by which individuals’ views can be altered. Media alone is unable to persuade individuals, but a similar belief must be reiterated by those they have personal connections with.
The effective of online communities or means of communication have already been established, now the prevalence is on the rise. Kalev Leetaru (2013) discusses the self-proclaimed “global town square”, more commonly known as Twitter. Twitter boasts over 170 billion tweets from a user base climbing well past 200 million.
This technology allows for not planned press conferences and debates, but rather an intimate glimpse into an individual’s thoughts they wish to share. Opinions and beliefs about outstanding issues, current events, or run of the mill topics, Twitter provides a platform for such interaction. Trump doubles the followers of his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, at 31,800,000 to 16,100,000 respectively. Given so many factors, it is difficult to truly assess the influence one form has on the actually ballot cast by a voter, but it has drawn the attention of researchers.
Over half a year later, hostility between the candidates can still be felt as Clinton mocks Trump over a typo on his twitter account. On its current course, Twitter and other online media played large roles in the connectivity of Americans and the spread of information, but can be presumed to make even more of an impact in the next election.
Online media penetrates our society, by way of our personally and professional relationships. With its current prevalence, is it a matter of time before government takes social media in any sort of official capacity? Not simply to the election, but other aspects as well.