Website Interactivity & 'Distributional Path Dependence' in the U.S. Congress: An Analysis of Freshmen
45 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2009
Date Written: September 23, 2009
What process determines the quality of website interactivity on congressional webpages? While long-entrenched incumbents are perhaps unlikely to robustly embrace new technology wholesale, one might expect freshmen members to be able to reflect on technical best practice standards when designing a website from scratch. We test these expectations using two waves of data coded from the official websites of the U.S. House of Representatives, for the years 2006 and 2007. We observe that incumbents show considerable path dependence in their website technology adoptions, while the websites of the freshmen who won election in 2006 are largely independent of the web designs of their corresponding predecessors. This independence does not mean, however, that freshmen are using technical best practice standards as their benchmark. Instead, the web design practices of freshmen appear to be governed by the distribution of existing practices among incumbents, a process we label "distributional path dependence."
Keywords: Legislative Websites, Path Dependence, Bayesian Latent Variable Models
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