New article out: “Connecting to Congress: The Use of Twitter by Members of Congress


How do political elites, such as the Members of the U.S. Congress, decide to use innovative forms of Information and Communication Technologies, such as social media applications? Communication between elected officials is guides by outdated rules and regulations that are focusing on paper mailings. The apparent lack of formal guidance and outdated rules are not reflecting the changing online landscape and the requirements on Members of Congress to interact with their constituents where they prefer to receive their information. New forms of highly interactive online communication tools, such as the microblogging service Twitter are challenging the existing information paradigm. Using the first year of tweets posted by Members of Congress in combination with qualitative interviews with congressional offices show that the Members are mainly using Twitter to complement their existing push communication style and automatically distribute vetted content via Twitter, using the Microblogging service as an additional communication channel for their individual appearances and issues. The awareness network among tweeting Members specifically shows that the potential for interactive conversations are not harnessed. Finally, Twitter’s potential as an innovative mode for future democratizing interactions is discussed.

Suggested citation:

Mergel, I. (2012): “Connecting to Congress”: Twitter use among Members of Congress, Zeitschrift fuer Politikberatung – Policy Advice and Political Consulting, 3/2012, pp. 108-114.

Link to the open access version on the journal’s homepage.


Obama’s agenda is back up… technology still one of the top issues

I just found out through Twitter that Obama’s agenda is back on Technology is still among his top issues (phew…). Some of the important issues are:

  • Protect the Openness of the Internet
  • Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership
  • Protect Our Children While Preserving the First Amendment
  • Safeguard our Right to Privacy

And when it comes to government:

“Create a transparent and connected democracy”

  • Open Up Government to its Citizens: Use cutting-edge technologies to create a new level of transparency, accountability, and participation for America’s citizens.
  • Bring Government into the 21st Century: Use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks. Appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure the safety of our networks and lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.

Obama’s Science, Technology and Innovation plan

The Obama/Biden Science, Technology and Innovation plan is up on and fascinating to read – it focuses on true Web 2.0 elements to engage citizens in the process of solving problems.

Using the wisdom of the crowds, elements of collaboration, social networking to connect citizens with each other, online deliberation elements and create a more transparent government by opening up the federal government.

Although most of the statements are still on a fairly general and unspecific level, the promise behind an open, transparent and connected government is clearly stated. Judging from the tools and the openess of the presidential campaign, this should be a success as well.

I am looking forward to find out who will be elected as the first CTO (Chief Technology Officer). We have some very innovative federal CIOs – pick one of them who already is an innovator. includes a link to “Of the people, By the people” button through which everyone is invited to submit their ideas.