Study focuses on social networking sites, the election

Glennis Siegfried

Two Kent State professors are examining how social network sites – YouTube, Facebook and MySpace – could play a role in this year’s election.

Paul Haridakis, associate professor of communication studies, heads the study and is joined by Gary Hanson, associate professor of electronic media.

“Since the last election, social networking has exploded,” Haridakis said. “We wanted to look specifically at this election since social networking has taken off since the last election.”

He and Hanson have focused specifically on YouTube, which started in 2005, just after the previous presidential election.

On the Web site, users are able to upload homemade videos for other people to view. Users have also uploaded television broadcasts, ranging from advertisements to the recent debates between political candidates.

With the democratization of video over the years, people are now able to record, shoot, edit and distribute it, Hanson said.

A specific question Haridakis said they are focusing on is the role YouTube is playing in acquiring and sharing political information.

The Internet is creating an interconnected audience, Hanson said. With it, the media is changing within the interconnected world. The Internet has put the audience in control.

“It’s easier with the Internet to research candidates,” said Brandon Miketa, freshman architecture major. “It puts you in more control. TV ads find anything wrong with a candidate and bash them.”

College Democrats President Jared M. Matthews said he thinks candidates are also trying to connect with their audience through Web sites.

“As society shifts toward the Internet, those running for office want to reach out to members using social networks,” he said. “Society interacts more today with MySpace and Facebook than with letters and mail.

“I personally think YouTube is a great utility for putting a check on the ballot,” Matthews said. “The Internet has allowed a larger outreach to individuals who might not have become active in the campaign.”

Both Haridakis and Hanson believe YouTube has helped to give individuals a voice in the campaign.

“It adds new voices that add impact, but is that impact overstated?” Hanson said. “It has a hidden potential like the printing press and could change things in a way we never saw.”

The results of their study should be completed by early next year.

Contact technology reporter Glennis Siegfried at [email protected].