Digital history for U.S. elections

In this course thus far, we have discussed:

  • the digital humanities, broadly defined
  • big data (its uses and abuses, advantages and liabilities)
  • data curation
  • digital preservation (including preservation of election-related websites)
  • digitization of primary sources
  • text mining
  • metadata for museum collections
  • augmented reality
  • digital storytelling (including games)
  • the importance of place in historical interpretation (and different ways to approach the study of place)

Today I want you to consider the past 50 years of U.S. presidential elections and find a way to present them—or a portion of them—to the public (high school students and older) in an innovative way that uses digital history methods.  You might focus on a particular subset of the voting public (demographic, geographic), a period of time, media coverage of campaigns, or an issue that arises regularly in presidential elections (e.g. the economy, reproductive rights) and how it affects voting patterns. Write a blog post describing how you would research and build your project, its user experience, and what its intended audience would be.  Share as well why you chose your particular focus for this project.

So, for example, you might propose a project that tracks shifts in voting by race or ethnicity over the past 50 years, provide some explanations for these shifts, and ask your project’s audience to vote (or better yet, argue) for their favorite interpretation of this data.  I encourage you to be provocative.  You might, for example, begin with, “No Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of the white vote since 1964, and it’s forecast that President Obama may win 80 percent of the minority vote this year. That said, some political scientists maintain that, because of changing U.S. demographics, this is the last election in which the Republican party candidate can win by relying on white voters. Why has such a racial divide emerged among voters?”

Note: for this activity, you need to work with classmates outside of your grant proposal group.  Mingle!

Please vote tomorrow

If you have not already voted, please be sure to vote tomorrow, November 6.  You can find your polling place using this tool provided by Google. Information on voting in Idaho, candidates for state and federal offices, and initiatives on the Idaho ballot this year, is available at the Idaho Secretary of State’s website.  The voter pamphlet available for download (PDF) includes arguments for and against each of the proposed initiatives.  If you are eligible to vote in Idaho, but aren’t yet registered, you can register at your polling place on Election Day–see question #10 on this FAQ.

Regardless of whether you are already registered to vote, remember to take a valid photo I.D.–Idaho now requires you to present one before voting.

Remember–tomorrow’s vote encompasses more than a presidential election. Educate yourself on local candidates and issues and vote.

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