jskao's blog | MIT Center for Civic Media

Methods of connecting with voters in the 2012 presidential election campaigns

It’s the end of another semester at MIT, and the close of my time in CMS.360, Introduction to Civic Media. To close off the semester, I’ve posted a copy of the slides to my 5 minute Ignite talk from our last class about methods of connecting with voters in the 2012 presidential election campaigns.

The 2012 campaigns are interesting because both parties utilized new technology to achieve traditional campaign goals — to connect with voters, gain information about them, and use that information to target them better. My project focused on three ways presidential campaigns connected with voters — using targeted emails, phone banks, and social media — and aspects that made them succeed.

Email targeting in 2012 political campaigns

An article from The Atlantic about the bearded geeks behind Obama's campaign recently caught the attention of many — as of today, more than 12,000 people have liked it on Facebook and over 3,000 people have tweeted about it. Part of the story's intrigue was the campaign's ability to collect massive amounts of data on voters and volunteers and use that data to target their messages.

This week's blog post will focus on ProPublica's Message Machine and its conclusions about email targeting in the 2012 election campaigns. This blog post is the second post in a series leading up to a final project about mass communication from 2012 election campaigns.

Obama’s grassroots calling campaign

How many emails, texts, or phone calls from an organization can you stand until you start automatically labeling the entire operation as spam? For my final project, I will focus on mass communication from organizations with the intention of driving civic action, particularly methods and frequency of communication.

With the 2012 elections, many found themselves the target of mass communication. This blog post will focus on one example of mass communication from a political campaign — Barack Obama’s calling campaign call.barackobama.com, a grassroots campaign to reach voters through their neighbors.

A blog post from April 18 by the campaign described the tool well — “The call tool is already changing what it means to volunteer—allowing anyone, anywhere, to pitch in.”

Intro to Civic Media Week 7: Civic Mapping Recap

This blog post was written with Luis Capelo.

Our Introduction to Civic Media class this week focused on civic maps and heard 4 civic mappers speak about their projects.


The class first began with Luis Capelo talking about ICCM and Becky talking about the Center for Civic Media and Data Center’s Civic Maps Toolkit.

Luis told us about the International Crisis Mappers Conference in Washington DC, which probably one of the most popular conferences about crisis mapping that government workers, practitioners and researchers attend. One of the most useful things Luis got out of the conference was the question of how useful maps are w/r/t crisis and humanitarian response. He found that it was interesting that the community had reached the level of maturity to be asking these questions, because these questions weren't being asked a few years ago. Additional information can be found at Crisis Mappers.

Link spamming during the 2008 South Korean beef protests

I’ve narrowed down the focus of my semester-long project. In my first post, I talked about looking at different commenting systems and the role they play in spreading information. I’ve decided to narrow down my focus to link spamming — links to sites that incite civic action placed in comments of content that isn’t intended to incite civic action.

One of the most substantial examples of this was the 2008 U.S. beef protests in South Korea. when South Koreans stopped banning the import of beef from the United States. Many South Koreans opposed the lifting of the ban, saying that U.S. beef wasn’t safe from the bacteria that causes Mad Cow disease. It even escalated to the point where the President’s entire cabinet submitted resignation letters.

The Magic School Bus Goes Link Spamming

At the end of our last Intro to Civic Media class, we split up into groups to develop models of theory of change. And for the second time doing this type of activity in this class, I was in the group that came up with a reference to nature — this time, we modeled change with... the water cycle.

And since water cycles remind me of one of my favorite childhood books — The Magic School Bus At the Waterworks —, I’m going to describe a method of change and how it relates to my semester-long project through The Magic School Bus (by Joanna Cole — oh wait, I mean Joanna Kao).

[Imagine Magic School Bus intro music]

Ms. Frizzle seemed a little different the other day. She’s normally a little different, but that day, she was even more different. When she walked into the classroom, she didn’t say her normal “Good morning, class!” and “Are you ready to learn about...” Instead, she just walked to her desk and stared off into space.

Project proposal: an analysis of current commenting systems

With the growth of social media and various forms of participatory media, the line between the traditional content generators and the content consumers is fading. As a result, conversations and comments from consumers as well as their posts on social media are starting to become considered content itself.

As media moves towards utilizing conversations and comments to provide more content and context, it’s important to think about the definition of having a “good” conversation, the motives and incentives to get people to contribute to a good conversation, and also how to get a diverse set of commenters to avoid bias.

Digital (In)equality in the 52246

For Intro to Civic Media this week, we talked about and created a model for digital inequality. My group came up with a cute representation of digital inequality using a tree, where its roots represent components that add to digital equality, the leaves represent the fruit of digital equality, and falling fruit represents the idea that digital equality can fuel itself, just like a real ecosystem.

Before heading east to Cambridge, Massachusetts to come to MIT, I had never moved before — I hadn’t even moved out of the house I grew up in. I grew up in the fifth largest city in Iowa — Iowa City, a “metropolitan” college town with a population of just under 69,000.

Civic + Media ?== Civic Media

“You should take Sasha’s class, Intro to Civic Media.”

It started with a suggestion from Nathan Matias, a research assistant from the Center for Civic Media. I was sitting in Starbucks right off MIT’s campus, hearing about his projects and talking about potential projects I could work on for a senior project that I’d have to complete in the spring. As a computer science major with an interest in journalism, the future of news, and the intersection of journalism and technology, I wanted to work on a senior project that would meld my two interests together to create a tool that journalists and newsrooms would find useful.