#TellVicEverything and effective political talk

Just over a year ago the hashtag #TellVicEverything took the Canadian political Twittersphere by storm. It was a comedic response to Bill C-30 which was officially dropped from the government’s agenda nearly a year after its first tabling in the House of Commons during February 2012. But did this hashtag really make a difference? How can simply posting 140 characters result in meaningful political change?

In what political system is: “cats are soft and sharp” (an actual tweet tagged with #tellviceverything!) a valid political statement? Can you imagine a crowd of protesters, all with signs describing what they had for breakfast?

A key reason #TellVicEverything succeeded is that they were not alone. A host of other Internet enabled actions also cropped up. From the OpenMedia hosted “StopSpying” petition to the now infamous @Vikileaks account to Anonymous YouTube threats, a wide range of people became involved.

The mainstream media was also an important factor. The #Tellviceverything hashtag creator embraced the traditional media by creating something funny, in his words, the goal was to “laugh Vic out.” Journalists interviewed too commented on the inter-connectedness of their work and the online response.

Journalists use Twitter and other social media in a variety of ways. For example, many journalists share links to stories via Twitter, others live-blog or live-tweet events. In the case of #TellVicEverything and Bill C-30, sourcing public opinion was another way journalists used Twitter. They may follow the hashtag directly or start to follow specific active users in order to get a sense of how people were talking about C-30 and what issues people cared about.

In this way social media users among the general public were able to both make use of and reinforce the power of the traditional media in order to oppose Bill C-30.

In my MSc thesis I analyze the issues discussed on Twitter and within the traditional media over time in order to explain this relationship in more detail. The paper will be presented at the American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting in August 2013 (at which point I will post a copy online).

Politicians got in on the #Tellviceverything fun.

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