Communication defines political representation. At the core of the representational relationship lies the interaction between principal and agent; the quality of this relationship is predicated upon the accessibility of effective channels of communication between the constituent and representative. Over the past decade, congressional websites have become the primary way constituents communicate with their members and a prominent place for members to communicate with constituents. Yet, as we move toward the third decade of the 21st century, little work has systematically analyzed this forum as a distinct representational space.
In this book, Jocelyn Evans and Jessica Hayden offer a fresh, timely, and mixed-methods approach for understanding how the emergence of virtual offices has changed the representational relationship between constituents and members of Congress. Utilizing strong theoretical foundations, a broad historical perspective, elite interviews, and rich original datasets, Evans and Hayden present evidence that virtual offices operate as a distinct representational space, and they demonstrate that their use has resulted in unprecedented and ill-understood changes in representational behavior.
Congressional Communication in the Digital Age contributes to the scholarship on representation theory and its application to the contemporary Congress. It is valuable reading for students and researchers interested in American politics, political communication, and legislative politics.
Table of Contents
1. The Transformation of Congressional Communication: From Legislative Correspondence to Multimedia Marketing
2. A Historical Overview of Congressional Communication
3. "What Hath God Wrought?" The Development of House Information Technology and the Implications of the Digital Age for Congressional Communication
4. Website Accessibility in the U.S. House of Representatives
5. Website Accessibility in the U.S. Senate
6. Congressional Use of Content Management Systems
7. Being Heard and Not Seen: The Congressional Tele-Town Hall as the Public Meeting of the Future
8. Congressional Websites, Constituent Communication, and Representation: Where Do We Go from Here?
Jocelyn Evans is the Associate Dean for the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL, USA. She is Full Professor of political science with a PhD from the University of Oklahoma. Her research interests include congressional politics, democratic theory, civic space, and political science education.
Jessica Hayden is a PhD student and Congressional Fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, USA.
'In this important and insightful analysis, Evans and Hayden explain how Members of Congress use today's technology to communicate with their constituents—including emails, websites, and the Internet—placing new demands on the discharge of representative duties.' - Louis Fisher, Scholar in Residence at the Constitution Project
'This book provides an important and thoughtful account of how members of Congress have used digital technologies to shape communications with their constituents. It combines historical analysis, interviews, and a wealth of data to provide a fresh perspective on how national lawmakers use their office websites to carry out their roles, while exploring how their use of these technologies impacts the character and quality of representation in Congress.' - Gary Malecha, Professor of Political Science, Univeristy of Portland
'Evans and Hayden demonstrate that legislative communication practices decisively affects congressional representation. Their opening historical review of Congress regularly responding to changing media environments lays the groundwork for their analysis of contemporary, digitally mediated member-constituent interactions. They conclude by considering whether today’s discourse enhances genuine deliberation or encourages a market-oriented messaging that treats citizens as customers. Those interested in the Congress, political communication, and in the nature of representation will all learn something important from this fine book.' - Daniel J. Reagan, Professor and Chair, Political Science, Ball State University, and co-author of The Public Congress: Congressional Deliberation in a New Media Age