In the lead-up to a presidential campaign that promises to capitalize on the internet more than any previous election, a class at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School will allow graduate students to study the role of social media in campaigns and government. In the fall semester, Assistant Professor of Public Administration Ines Mergel will teach “Social Media and the 2012 Election.”
Mergel says that social media first entered campaigns in 2004, when Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean used Meetup.com in the primary election to organize offline events. President Obama and Republican candidate John McCain further capitalized on social media in 2008. This fall, Mergel will use the class to ask, “How can the Democrats revive this during the presidential campaign? Also, what innovative online campaign tactics are the Republicans using that might get a new president elected?”
The class will track social media use in the 2012 presidential campaigns while also ensuring that MPA and IR students become proficient with using social media. Each week, students will discuss real-time social media events from the campaign trail.
The class will feature guest speakers from both parties’ campaign teams as well as from within government. Mergel wants to bring in speakers who used social media on previous campaigns and have since transitioned into government positions to use social media for ongoing governance issues.
Mergel wants the class to be relevant for students interested in nonprofit and corporate sectors as well as the public sector. To that end, students will have a project in which they develop a social media strategy for a client.
The School of Information Studies (iSchool) at Syracuse University will feature its own version of the class, taught by Assistant Professor of Practice Anthony Rotolo; the two classes will share guest speakers. Lectures from some guest speakers will be streamed live via the Maxwell School website.
The class has already established a social media presence, with a blog at inesmergel.wordpress.com and a hashtag for #electionclass. Follow Professor Mergel on Twitter for frequent updates @inesmergel.