Tweeting #SOTU – IU South Bend lecturer chosen for White House online chat

Twitter users posted more than 1.3 million messages Tuesday night about the president’s State of the Union address. Alec Hosterman tweeted his share.

Hosterman, a senior lecturer in communication studies at IU South Bend, was one of 100 people who took part in a White House Social, for which they traveled to Washington, D.C., and shared responses to President Barack Obama’s speech with their online networks.

Alec Hosterman at the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Alec Hosterman at the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Seated in an auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House, they posted comments on Twitter and Facebook during the State of the Union, then took part in a special panel discussion afterward about the speech and social media.

“We were extending the conversation as it happened, and we were engaging it afterward and pushing it forward in the digital realm,” Hosterman said.

He said the event was both a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the nation’s history and an invaluable source of knowledge for teaching and research. An avid user of Twitter and Facebook, he teaches courses on new media, online culture, visual communication and political communication.

Now, when he talks with students about convergence culture and trans-media digital storytelling, he will have lessons to share from a remarkable personal experience.

Hosterman applied for the social almost on a lark. He was checking his Facebook page a week before the State of the Union when he saw a call for applications from the White House. He filled out the form and dashed off the required essay, giving the matter little thought. When he got an email saying he had been selected, he first thought it was a joke.

“I think I knew, at that, point, what it feels like to win the lottery,” he said.

He then had just days to book a flight and hotel and get to Washington. On Tuesday, he and other participants got a 30-minute tour of the White House in the morning. Then they were on their own. He toured the city’s monuments, posting photos on Twitter and waiting for the big event.

Equipped with laptop, iPad and cell phone, Hosterman tweeted during the address about what the president said and how it was received. Flagging his tweets with the hashtags #SOTU and #WHchat, he posted about 75 comments from the start of the speech through a post-event panel discussion with White House policy advisers that lasted almost until midnight.

Hosterman’s approach was to not just pass along what Obama said but to offer real-time critiques. He liked some parts better than others. “Overused” was his judgment for the line that what makes a man is not the ability to conceive a child but the courage to raise one. But the call for an AIDS-free generation was an “awesome moment,” he tweeted.

Talking about the experience later, Hosterman gave the president points for seeing the potential of social media and making a deliberate effort to harness it for political communication. He said Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools may lend themselves to superficial exchanges, but they can also be used to engage more participants in meaningful conversations about the essentials of civic life.

“Like with any device,” he said, “it’s a matter of how you use it.”


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