Is Your Neighbor and Democrat or a Republican? Lateral Voter Surveillance and the Political Culture of Modern Election Campaigns
25 Pages Posted: 6 May 2016
Date Written: April 20, 2016
The conventional wisdom is that the modern political campaign needs to be “data driven” to consolidate existing support and to find potential new voters and donors. The capture and consolidation of these data permit the construction of detailed profiles on individual voters and the “micro-targeting” of increasingly precise messages to increasingly refined segments of the electorate, especially in marginal states and districts, and using the most effective means of communication. At the same time, in the name of more efficient, cost-effective and widespread voter engagement, political parties and candidates are making full use of mobile technology and decentralizing intelligence on voter operations. I have argued elsewhere that these practices constitute a form of surveillance. Just as we have conceptualized consumer or employee surveillance, it is logical to isolate and examine voter surveillance, and consider its distinctive dynamics, risks and norms. This paper delves deeper into the centralizing versus decentralizing aspects of voter surveillance, and particularly into mobile canvassing and ‘targeted sharing’ through social media. After a more complete overview of these practices, I consider the question of lateral or “peer-to-peer” surveillance, and assess whether contemporary campaigning can appropriately be considered and understood according to these concepts. There are some unique features of voter surveillance by candidates and parties that are not adequately framed or explained by existing surveillance theory.
Keywords: privacy, surveillance, parties, elections, campaigns
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