By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

A new course this fall uses the 2012 American election as the lens for viewing how emerging technologies and citizens’ social media engagement impact candidates, campaigns, voters, and success at the polls.

IST 500, “Social Media in the 2012 Election,” is being offered by the School of Information Studies (iSchool) for the first time this fall.  Based on the how issues and developments shape the election season, the class will feature elements of spontaneity and unpredictability just as real campaigns do, according to Assistant Professor of Practice Anthony Rotolo, who is teaching the course.

While the class meets once a week, students will track and respond to news and events through social media platforms to address campaign issues and candidate situations as they unfold throughout the election season.

“The course will be unique because it will be in real time, and we will be studying something that is happening as we look at it,” Rotolo explained.  In addition, it will emphasize the impact of social media conversation, strategy and engagement on the citizenry and voters, “because it does have an effect,” Rotolo said.

The syllabus is specifically designed to be flexible enough to accommodate planned lessons as well as to immediately address the occurrences and changing circumstances of the election season, according to Rotolo. 

“Where the course could get unpredictable is that the election is unfolding in real time when the course is in session. For instance, if one presidential candidate makes a move that captures attention, social media will address it immediately as it happens,” he explained. Students will be right in the middle of it all, immersed in the social media conversations, strategies and emerging technologies that are happening around, and shaping, those situations, he said.

 ‘It’s a once-in-four-years course to take,” Rotolo noted.  “I think it is an experience students won’t be able to find elsewhere, and I’m happy to be presenting it.”

Course content focuses on how emerging technologies and social media engagement are involved in and influence political activity in modern times, including social movements in the U.S. and internationally. Students will use trends and data to assess the impact of social media engagement on citizens and voters and will track metrics to look at how citizens’ use of social media compares to traditional polling data to determine success at the polls. Private-sector social media best practices will be reviewed for their application to campaign strategy and communication. Conversely, students also will examine how public social media strategies can work in the private sector.

As is traditional in a Rotolo class, plans call for hosting a number of special speakers and guests relevant to the issues that crop up or dominate during the campaigns. The professor said guests may include campaign staff, candidates, former candidates and political pundits, all of them able to offer unique perspectives through either in-person visits to class or through Skyped-in conversations.  

Professor Ines Mergel, Assistant Professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Affairs, will be teaching a companion section of the course that is designed specifically for Maxwell graduate students. She will contribute her expertise on social media’s use in the public sector for governance purposes.

The class will have a Twitter element (at the hashtag, #electionclass) and a web page, where students will blog, according to the professor.

The class is open to undergraduates and graduate students from all disciplines.

Registration for fall courses begins today.