William & Mary professors broadcast Q&A live on Periscope

Ryan McKinnon
Contact Reporterjmckinnon@vagazette.com

WILLIAMSBURG — The College of William and Mary made its foray into a new realm of social media on Monday with the university's first Periscope and Facebook Live broadcast.

Periscope is a live video streaming app that enables users to "broadcast" live videos of themselves to anyone watching via the app. Facebook Live is a similar feature available to Facebook account holders. Viewers on both apps can type in questions that the host sees in real time and can answer.

The technology, which developed as a form of video-based Twitter a year ago, has been used for live question and answer sessions with celebrities, athletes and now, a William and Mary professor.

The topic for the inaugural broadcast was, appropriately, "Politics in the age of social media," hosted by assistant professor of government Jamie Settle.

Settle and Emily Draper, a senior government major, answered questions from about a dozen Periscope users about how innovations like Twitter and Facebook had changed the way people interact over politics.

"(Social media) is a mixed blessing," Settle said. "I am not sure if the average person is more or less informed than they would be otherwise."

The 20-minute discussion was viewed live by 138 viewers, and much of the conversation focused on the increasingly influential role social media is playing in the 2016 presidential election.

Draper contrasted the marketing approach of Jeb Bush, who spent over $100 million on a traditional campaign he suspended in February, with front-runner Donald Trump, who has heavily used free social media.

Settle said while social media can provide unprecedented access to candidates and information, it also encourages inflammatory retorts, especially when people are interacting anonymously.

"Anonymity makes (political discourse) more inflammatory. As soon as you move into world of anonymity you lose a lot of the social norms that guide productive conversation," Settle said.

Settle's point was proven by a handful of questions during the session. One user asked Settle and Draper to "shurrp," a slang term for "Shut up," and another asked "How do you know anyone other than yourself is in existence?" – two questions unlikely to be asked if the discussion were being held in a lecture hall.

But the goal of Periscope and Facebook Live broadcasts is to attract community members who may not come out to a lecture hall, said Suzanne Seurattan, the university's Director of News & Media.

The tone of the broadcasts will be more conversational than academic, and Seurattan said the broadcasts will aim to focus on topics of interest to the community at large, not just the academic community.

"This is a trial balloon for us. What we hope is that this will be a way we can promote our experts," said Seurattan. "We have a lot of faculty doing relevant research and who are available to talk on many topics folks see in the news on a daily basis."

McKinnon can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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