Friday, March 24, 2017
Thomson House, McGill University
(please excuse the audio glitch that occurred about half-way in the recording)
Prototype Politics offers a history and analysis of the two U.S. political parties and their affiliated organizations from 2004-2014 that documents and explains their differential uptake of technology. The book provides an analytical framework for understanding why and how campaigns are newly ‘technology-intensive’ and digital media, data, and analytics are at the forefront of contemporary electoral dynamics. The book discusses the importance of infrastructure, the contexts within which technological innovation happens, and how the collective making of prototypes shapes parties and their technological futures. Drawing on an innovative dataset of the professional careers of 629 staffers working in technology on presidential campaigns from 2004-2012 and data from interviews with more than 60 party and campaign staffers, Prototype Politics details how and explains why the Democrats have invested more in technology, attracted staffers with specialized expertise to work in electoral politics, and founded an array of firms and organizations to diffuse technological innovations down ballot and across election cycles. Taken together, this book shows how the differences between the Obama and Romney campaigns on display in 2012 were shaped by the two parties’ institutional histories since 2004, as well as that of their extended network of allied organizations. In the process, this book argues that scholars need to understand how technological development around politics happens in time and that the dynamics on display during presidential cycles are the outcome of longer processes.