Emerging media not only are radically changing our methods of interpersonal communication through social media networks such as Facebook and MySpace, they also are irrevocably altering the nature of American politics. Brandon Waite's research centers on emerging media and civic engagement; for example, how "word of mouse" (Web sites, blogs and other online chatter) significantly displaced the usual "word of mouth" in much of the political campaigning leading up to the 2008 elections. As prophesied by Robert Putnam in his groundbreaking 2000 book Bowling Alone: the Collapse and Revival of American Community, Waite believes that, because of advances in communications technology, more Americans than ever are attune to the influence of government and politics in their daily lives. However, because of those same technological advances—the multifaceted (some might say "fractured") ways in which we choose to share news, information and opinion today—when it comes to identifying with a particular issue, party or candidate, never have so many felt less in common with their fellow citizens; perhaps explaining, in part, the surge of voters in the 2008 election describing themselves as "independent." Like the once-popular bowling leagues that occupied millions of average Americans in the middle and latter decades of the 20th century, "the days of the 'mass movement' are over," says Waite, replaced by "anonymous, online communities that only roughly overlap geographic areas and interests." One of Ball State's 2009–10 Emerging Media Faculty Fellows, Waite's latest project has Ball State students developing an interactive broadcast model for C-SPAN. He has been an invited speaker at the annual International e-Government Conference and recently completed a chapter for inclusion in the new volume Communicator-in-Chief: A Look at How Barack Obama Used New Media Technology to Win the White House (Lexington Books).
Contact Brandon Waite, assistant professor of political science, at 765-285-8780.
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