a1 Congressional Research Service
From the establishment of the United States Postal Service and the invention of the telegram, to the introduction of C-SPAN and the explosion of the Internet, the development of new communication technologies has always affected the functioning of Congress. Not surprisingly, recent innovations such as e-mail and social networking have spurred Congress to alter the way it operates as an institution, and rethink the manner in which it engages the public. In this brief examination, I discuss recent changes in congressional behavior and practices due to technological innovation, specifically the proliferation of social networking Web sites. Then, I cautiously predict future trends in the use of social networking and related technologies as they become more integrated in congressional offices and increase the capacity for more robust internal and constituent communications over time.
Colleen J. Shogan is assistant director of the Congressional Research Service. She teaches graduate courses in American politics at Georgetown University and George Mason University.
I would like to thank Jacob Straus and Matthew Glassman for their assistance in the preparation of this article. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not presented as those of the Congressional Research Service or the Library of Congress.