Coming in May: Data-Driven Democracy

Well, a data-driven democracy itself may not be in the offing in just two months (though a robot-driven FOREIGN policy is apparently now ours to enjoy), but coming up in May, we get to talk about about data in politics at the Annenberg School at Penn:

Data-Crunched Democracy Conference: Where Do We Go From Here? – May 31, 2013

The 2012 U.S. presidential election was a watershed step towards more sophisticated data-driven analyses of voters and electoral strategy more generally.

Journalists, analysts, and campaigners dissected the potential electoral impact of projects with exotic names such as ‘Dreamcatcher,’ ‘Narwhal,’ ‘Optimizer,’ and ‘Orca,’ all while arguing about the importance of ‘A/B testing’, web site ‘optimization’, and field experiments. While these technologies may be new, they are all premised on something that has occupied the attention of campaigners for well over a hundred years: data. Some of this data would have been recognizable to party operatives at the turn of the 19th century, such as voter files that contain information about the party registration and issue interests of citizens. Other data is qualitatively new, such as data on citizen responses to campaign web pages, social networks, and broadcast media consumption patterns.

This conference will bring the best practitioners, journalists, policymakers, and academics together for the first time to cut through the hype and pull back and consider what is going on with the use of data in campaigning – and what we should do about it. We seek to understand how campaigns use demographic, psychographic, attitudinal, and behavioral data to dissect the electorate, evaluate individual interests, and target the most attractive potential voters with customized political messaging. We will collectively consider what the rules around voter data should be given persistent and increasingly visible concerns over voter privacy, data security, targeted communications, and transparency.

It should be a fascinating conversation, and I’m proud to be a panelist. Check out the conference site for more info.


Written by
Colin Delany
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