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One of the important objectives of this exploratory research was to

generate information which can be used as a basis for further inquiry and

generally to identify new lines of investigation. Of course, any such endeavor reflects a basic value judgment that the area merits additional attention.

Without question, research priorities should also include such areas as

congressional organization and procedure, the committee and seniority systems,

separation of powers and executive oversight, the election process and campaign

finance, and congressional information and analytical support.

Any further research on emergent telecommunications for the House

can logically move in one of two directions.

If the results of this explor

atory study are felt to need further confirmation, then a more definitive study

based on a larger and probably random sample, or even a census, of the House

membership seems justified. The key questions and dimensions identified in the

present research can serve as the basis for development of the more refined research instruments needed for any additional effort.

Or, if the exploratory results are considered to be reasonably satisfactory, the follow-on research might be a pilot test or demonstration project with a judgmentally representative group of congressmen and staff, perhaps even the same sample. Such a pilot test could provide participants with an opportunity to actually experience and "get the feel of" the emergent telecommunications, rather than just react to pictures and sketches.

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the exploratory results, and at the minimum provide some basis for a fairly

definitive confirmation or refutation. But in order to be fully realistic,

such a project would logically have to include constituents. And this raises

political and policy considerations which lead some to suggest that pilot

projects might better be organized from the ground up (that is, by the

constituents themselves).

This line of inquiry could also be extended to the Senate and to the

institutional level of Congress, both of which received only a passing glance.

For the Senate, very preliminary results in this study based on interviews with

senior staff in ten Senate offices did seem to be generally consistent with

the findings for the House. Overall usefulness was perceived as quite high for cable television, information retrieval, videoconference, and teleconference. In sharp contrast, overall perceived usefulness was very low for cable TV polling and the videophone, as was the case with the House perceptions. Preliminary results at the institutional level are discussed in the next section.

But the implications for further research clearly go beyond the Congress Itself, the legislative branch of the federal government. The congressionalconstituent focus of this study is really a subset of the more general governmental-citizen communication process which occurs on the state, metropolitan,

and local levels as well as the federal level; and which involves the admini

strative, executive, and judicial branches of government as well as the

legislative.

A productive project for the future might be to test the applicability

of both the research methodology and the substantive results of this study to

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attention should be given to the effects of alternative communication systems from the perspective of the people and the polity,25 and, to the extent possible,

from the viewpoint of general systems theory and cybernetics.26

An effort should be made to interpret the data and analysis of the present exploratory study in terms of possible advantages and disadvantages (beneficial and detrimental effects) of alternative communication systems on at least four levels of society and along fifteen specific dimensions: the time

budget, financial budget, communication channels, information sources, political

power, and political security of the congressman; the political information,

competence, and participation of the constituency; the political information,

effectiveness, and power of Congress as an institution; and political feedback,

opportunity, and change in the larger socio-political system.

24The role of the executive branch of the Federal Government in regard to emergent telecommunications was the subject of recently completed hearings held by U.S., Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations and Government Information, Federal Information Systems and Plans--Federal Use and Development of Advanced Information Technology, Parts I and II, 93rd Congress, 1st Session (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1973); Part III, 93rd Congress, 2nd Session, is forthcoming. Also see Clay T. Whitehead, "Government Communications Planning Program," Circular No. 12, office of Telecommunications Policy, Executive Office of the President, Washington, D.C., October 12, 1973, and Report of the Interagency Audio-Visual Study Group, February 11, 1974.

25 Several pilot studies are currently in progress on citizen and community use of emergent telecommunications. See Amitai Etzioni, "Minerva: An Electronic Town Hall," Policy Sciences 3 (December 1972): 457-74; Thomas B. Sheridan, "Progress Report of the MIT Community Dialogue Project," mimeographed, Cambridge, Ma., July 1973; and Stuart A. Umpleby, "Is Greater Participation in Planning Possible and Desireable?" Technological Forecasting and Social Change 4 (1972): 61-76. For background on citizen participation, see Sidney Verba and Norman Nie, Participation in America: Political Democracy (New York: Harper and Row, 1972).

26See, for example, James G. Miller, "Living Systems: The Organization," Behavioral Science 17 (January 1972), and Frederick Bernard Wood, Communication Theory in the Cause of Man 1 and 2 (1971, 1972) for further discussion.

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Congress of course exists as an institution--with two houses, several

caucuses and organizing groups, dozens of committees, and literally scores

of subcommittees--as well as a collection of 535 individual congressmen.

The

inherent difficulties of covering a diverse and complex institution like

Congress, coupled with the technical and economic limitations of the existing

mass electronic media, in the past have limited media coverage to a relatively

small portion of total congressional activity. Several congressmen and start

in this study believe that limited coverage has contributed to an incomplete,

unrealistic, and perhaps even innaccurate public understanding of Congress as an institution, and has weakened the role of Congress relative to other

branches of government.

Emergent telecommunications offer the prospect of additional channels

at lower cost and with greater flexibility, which will make it possible to carry

congressional activity to an extent simply not feasible over broadcast channels. For example, through the use of satellite and microwave interconnected educational and cable television systems, committee and subcommittee hearings and

floor activity in both the House and Senate could be transmitted on a selected

basis via live coverage, videotape, or even videocassette to regional locations

around the country. Several possibilities are illustrated in Figure Five.

2 This discussion is based largely on the statement of Frederick Bruce Wood, "Congress on the Cable: The Potential for Citizen Education and Participation," in U.S., Congress, Joint Committee on Congressional Operations, Congress and Mass Communication, Hearings, 93rd Congress, 2nd Session (Washington, D.C.: GPO, forthcoming). In early 1973, the Joint Committee initiated a study on how Congress as an institution can make more effective use of the mass media, and has recently completed hearings on this subject. See also U.S., Congress, Joint Committee, Congress and Mass Communication: An Institutional Perspective, & study conducted by John Stewart under contract with the Congressional Research Service, 93rd Congress, 2nd Session (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1974).

Figure Five Sketch of Future Congressional-Constituent
Telecommunication Potential at the Institutional Level

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