The Wisconsin Spring

The Wisconsin Spring

James Jorstad (University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, USA), Jo Arney (University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, USA), Kerry Kuenzi (University of Colorado – Denver, USA) and Cecilia G. Manrique (University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8614-4.ch059
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Abstract

As a relatively new form of communication and information dissemination, the effect of social media on public awareness and public participation in political events is relatively unknown. Using the events that unfolded surrounding the election of Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and the removal of collective bargaining rights of public employees as its main example, this chapter explores the relationship between social media, information dissemination, and collective action.
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The Role Of Social Media

In the fall of 2011, the Associated Press reported that eight of every 10 members of Congress are on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, the story noted that Republicans, by a slight majority, tweeted contentious times and how did it affect the political environment?

A variety of social media tools including Twitter, blogs, YouTube, and Facebook were used to disseminate information and political opinion surrounding these events. In addition, one of the writers of this chapter authored a series of CNN iReports focusing on Wisconsin politics. After the iReports were written they were vetted, posted, and tracked to analyze how people would react in Wisconsin, the U.S. and the world. Over 300,000 people viewed these reports with over 1,000 readers placing comments on-line. Once the stories were uploaded, CNN iReport producers in Atlanta would contact the writer to “vet” the story to ensure its accuracy. After a few months, rather than an iReport producer intern calling to vet the story, the CNN news desk followed up to “check in with Wisconsin,” and to ensure the accuracy of the report. Once the story was vetted, it was not unusual to see the iReport placed on-line within hours in Forbes, NPR, and other news outlets worldwide.

During this time it became increasingly clear that not only was Wisconsin becoming polarized, but so was the entire nation. When posting stories about worker’s rights or the removal of collective bargaining for public employees, comments quickly appeared saying:

Unions are a pox on the land.

Public unions are blood suckers.

Wisconsin unionists are just like the Democratic party. They believe in tax and spend as long as it’s spent on them.

On the other end of the spectrum, people commented:

The working class needs to stand up all over this country to show these Elitists who does the work and who makes the money for these corporations.

I hope the people of Wisconsin are successful in taking their state back from the pirates who are now controlling the government.

(I) am in awe of these people; this is what the American People should be doing right now, after the devastation they have just been handed by the Republicans in Congress.

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