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they wish to acquire a sound understanding of technological developments as a foundation for an imaginative construction and study of future social
changes. "18 And engineers, for their part, need a sharpened awareness of
the social context of technology.
Third, perhaps more so now than ever before, technological choices
are closely interwoven with political choices and value judgments.
Therefore participation of citizens and their representatives in the develop
ment, use, and regulation of telecommunications technology is necessary for
the public interest to be served. 19 This process of "participatory technology"
requires a number of forums--the professional community, executive agencies,
courts, special interests, and the mass media--but depends especially on a
public and a Congress which are both well-informed. 20
Thus, the underlying theme of this research is to promote a humane
and participatory telecommunications technology from an interdisciplinary
perspective--a framework to be shared by citizens, businessmen, educators, scientists, and politicians alike--within which the implications of such technology for congressman and constituents (and for the political system in general) can be explored and better understood. 21
18Goldhamer, Social Effects, p. 28.
19James D. Carroll, "Participatory Technology," Science 171 (19 February 1971): 647-48.
20See Emilio Q. Daddario, "Technology and the Democratic Process," Technology Review, July/August 1971, p. 23; and C. West Churchman, Challenge To Reason (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968), esp. chap. 5 on "The Role of the Well-Informed Public."
21See Max Ways, "Can Information Technology Be Managed," in Information Technology: Some Critical Implications for Decision-Makers, ed. Conference Board (New York: Conference Board, 1971), p. 4. Also see generally, George Gerbner, Larry P. Gross, and William H. Melody, eds., Communications Technology and Social Policy: Understanding the New "Cultural Revolution" (New York: Wiley-Interscience, 1973).
There are two explicit research objectives or questions which
evolve from the general theme.
The methodological objective is to develop
an appropriate and effective exploratory approach for conducting research
on emergent congressional-constituent communication systems.
And the substantive question asks: Given the current communication
system and clearly specified emergent telecommunication channels, what is the
potential future role for such emergent channels in the congressionalconstituent communication process from the perspective of the congressman?
This report presents a summary22 in Chapter II of the substantive research results. Chapter III reviews the implications of the research and sumarizes the conclusions. Appendix A summarizes the methodological results. And Appendix B outlines a "representative time" approach to telecommunication
22The 374 page research manuscript on which this summary report was based is available as Frederick Bruce Wood, Telecommunications Technolo y for Congress: An Exploratory Assessment of Its Potential for CongressionalConstituent communication (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms, 1974), a doctoral dissertation in management science and public administration completed at The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
II. SUMMARY OF SUBSTANTIVE RESEARCH RESULTS
This chapter includes an overview of the current state of the
congressional-constituent communication system, describes the emergent tele
communication channels, and summarizes an assessment of the potential role
for emergent channels as perceived by congressmen and staff. The overview and assessment are based on survey interview data from a stratified Judgment semple comprised of 40 House offices, and therefore must be considered tenta
tive and exploratory, as is explained in the methodological appendix.
A. Current State of the Communication Process
1. Face-to-face channels. Analysis of the interview data identified
the communication channels perceived by senior congressional staff as currently important for the congressional-constituent communication process. These
channels are listed in Figure One in rank order of relative importance.
Face-to-face contact in the district is perhaps the most important
constituent communication channel for members of Congress. The face-to-face
personal conversation, small group meeting, and large group meeting--when
conducted in the district--rank first, second, and third respectively in overall
In sharp contrast, face-to-face contact in Washington is
ranked much lower.
The relative importance of direct district contact reflects the fact that most constituents rarely, if ever, travel to Washington, and so the congressmen must visit them during periodic trips to the district. Also, most members maintain district offices and staff whose primary functions include
Source: Interviews with 40 congressional offices.
Key: N and % = number and percent of congressional offices in the sample perceiving a channel as very important or important; R = relative rank of a channel among the 21 channels perceived as very important and the 29 channels perceived as important.
Figure One. Continued
Percent of offices Perceiving
As Important =D
Very Important = 0
Personal conversation in district
65.0 70.0 65.0
90.0 190.0 [87.5
Written survey or questionnaire
177.5 District television news coverage
2 25.0 567.5 Personal conversation in Washington
2.12.5 165.0 Radio audiotape report or program
17.5 Telegraph message via Washington Personal letter via district office
57.5 Television videotape report or program
10.0 Radio talk show or discussion
50.0 Television talk show or discussion
47.5 Signed newspaper column
210.0 42.5 Small group meeting in Washington
10.0 40.0 Conference/speakerphone call
01 J10.0 Radio talk show with listener response o 7.5 Live radio report or program
2.50 5.0 Cablecast videotape report or program U15.0 Telegraph message via district office olo