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Is Twitter Really the New Town Hall?

DavenportInst-logoOur interest was piqued by two recent posts from the Gov 2.0 Watch blog (one of the blogs of the Davenport Institute, an NCDD org member). They have been posting recently about the ways social media can and is changing the way government interacts with the public, and we wanted to share two posts that provoke real considerations about how we should move forward with integrating social media into civic dialogue and deliberation.

First, Gov 2.0 Watch shared the post below on Lessons from Spain to be learned from the unprecedented use of Twitter in the Spanish city of Jun:

Mayor Jose Antonio Rodrigues, of the spanish town of Jun, has fully embraced twitter — and may have some lessons for other cities:

Because of this unprecedented Twitter integration into city governance, we have seen some great stories of what a “Twitter town square” can look like:

  • The mayor gathers city council agenda items via Twitter (@AyuntamientoJun) and displays a live, unfiltered Twitter feed during each public meeting.
  • Every town councilor has an individual Twitter handle; citizens have a direct line of communication with Jun’s leadership.
  • Residents can Tweet about issues of concern to the mayor, who replies publicly on Twitter about how these issues will be addressed, along with how and when the issue was resolved. For example, after exposed wires were reported, they were fitted with a proper cover in about 24 hours.
  • Jun encourages citizens of all ages to learn to use Twitter. Even older residents are active in civic life and engaged with others on Twitter.

You can read more here.

And that post was followed up by another that points to recent thought on the growth and evolution of social town halls from Harvard:

Stephen Goldsmith of the Ash Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School takes a look at how social media is evolving when it comes to public engagement with government:

Social media is the new town hall, where government leaders join residents in the constant digital conversation that occurs on Twitter and other sites. However, in addition to straightforward communication, social media offers much more in transforming how government works and listens. The use of social media is now evolving through four stages.

You can read about these stages here.

As we continue to see social media become a bigger part of our governance, dialogue, and deliberation, it will be crucial for our field to continue to explore, critique, and experiment with the ins and outs of its integration.

Do the above posts from Davenport raise questions for you or inspire reflections on social media and our work? Is Twitter the new town hall, or is it not? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section, or tweet them to our Twitter handle, @NCDD!

You can find the original Gov 2.0 Watch blog post on Spain here, and the original post on social town halls is here.

Roshan Bliss on LinkedinRoshan Bliss on Twitter
Roshan Bliss
An inclusiveness trainer and group process facilitator, Roshan Bliss serves as NCDD's Youth Engagement Coordinator and Blog Curator. Combining his belief that decisions are better when everyone is involved with his passion for empowering young people, his work focuses on increasing the involvement of youth and students in public conversations.

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  1. Lucas Cioffi says:

    Roshan, it’s interesting to see social media and government co-evolve as you point out.

    In my opinion, Twitter is great for a stream of questions to be answered by an elected official, but it isn’t conducive to tough follow-up questions (maybe that’s why elected officials like it!). Because Twitter is built for single sentence exchanges, it’s nearly impossible to use it for transformative dialogue. When I’ve participated in dialogues that pushed me to challenge my own thinking, it took tens of minutes to get deep enough into the conversation with the other participants.

    So I’m glad to see citizens having more of a voice in asking questions, and I’d like to see elected officials open up opportunities for deeper dialogues in-person and online.

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