Research – Presidential Campaign Organizations and Digital Media

The African continent has experienced a phenomenal growth rate in internet use from barely five million in 2000 to over 330 million in 2016. The trend is same for mobile phone use. As more people have access to new digital communication technologies, political actors seeking political office are increasing adopting and adapting these technologies to mobilize supporters.

My dissertation research focuses on how presidential campaigns use digital media for internal organization and voter mobilization in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Due to the dearth of literature on the topic, the research first seeks to account for how campaigns organize with digital tools, and then explores how they rhetorically describe their use of these tools.

On the one hand, I investigate how political organizations adopt digital technology to manage people, information and organizational processes. The research specifically focuses how campaigns decide which technologies to use, how they navigate control vs. openness, and how they overcome challenges to adapt existing technologies for local contexts.

On the other hand, I am curious about the impact of digital media use on existing sociopolitical relations in society. Thus, I examine inter-ethnic relations, clientelism, party ideology, etc in relations to digital media.

Methodologically, I use a combination of interviews, ethnographic observations, and news and artifacts analysis. The current research allows me to integrate my various interests in Political Communication, Technology and Society, and African Studies.

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Beyond my primary focus on politics, I am also interested in why and how people adopt products for everyday use, and the implications for them.

Fundamentally, I subscribe to the theory of mutual shaping — we design technologies to achieve specific functions but the technologies also end up shaping our lives in sometimes unintended ways.

Understanding how these processes work is vital to designing technology products that meet human needs while minimizing unintended effects on users and society at large.

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[1] Lindberg, S. I. (2009). Democratization by elections: a new mode of transition. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

[2] Berman, B., Eyoh, D., & Kymlicka, W. (Eds.). (2004). Ethnicity & democracy in Africa. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

[3] Hersh, E. D. (2015). Hacking the electorate: How campaigns perceive voters. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

[4] Kreiss, D. (2012). Taking our country back: The crafting of networked politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.