Tag Archives: Nathan Yank

Twittering Sustainability: @earthsayer

We use Twitter primarily as a way to connect with other sustainability-minded environmental, social, cultural, and economic individuals and organizations (241 at this writing) and bring to their attention the voices of sustainability in our collection. We add videos daily to EarthSayers and use Twitter to call out at least four or five a week. Here are two examples:

Twitter Example 1Twitter Example 2We are “pushing” out EarthSayers content to an audience who has expressed an interest in our cause.  We experiment with the day and time of day we post and offer a wide range of experts, leaders, and citizens from all walks of life. It does seem to generate traffic to our site, meaning people do click through, but not in droves. What we are going to do next is emphasize the subject matter of the video, rather than the person presenting the information and see if it we increase click through numbers.

A social science research paper, “Twitter in Congress: Outreach vs Transparency” by Feng Chi and Nathan Yank, both of the University of Toronto raises an interesting distinction which was referenced by the authors from Felten (2009):  “outreach means government telling us what it wants us to hear; transparency means giving us the information that we, the citizens, want to get.” Ultimately, outreach can be used in conjunction with Twitter to push some agendas, while transparency can be used to portray honesty and openness regarding day-to-day operations; both of which involve connecting with the public, and more specifically, constituents via the Internet.”

I suspect this distinction also applies to other profit and non-profit organizations as well, but there is not with reason not to use Twitter for both outreach and transparency.

The authors then make an important point:

“Because both outreach and transparency are important for democracy, we attempt to tease out these two motives using a simple cost-benefit trade-off that underlies the adoption decisions of those in the 111th House of Representatives in order to ascertain each motivei?s value.” We feel very strongly about EarthSayers, as the only media outlet focused on the sustainability movement and highlighting the voices of sustainability,  that the the new media and related social media outlets be used in the service of democracy.  And in that regard, the findings of the study suggested “that Democrats and Republicans benefit from Twitter in different ways.

A bolder claim from our study says that Democrats care about transparency, while Republicans care about outreach.