The political campaign is one of the most important organizations in a democracy, and whether issue- or candidate-specific, it is one of the least understood organizations in contemporary political life.

This book is a critical assessment of the role that information technologies have come to play in contemporary campaigns. With evidence from ethnographic immersion, survey data, and social network analysis, Philip Howard examines the evolving act of political campaigning and the changing organization of political campaigns over the last five election cycles, from 1996 to 2004.

Over this time, both grassroots and elite political campaigns have gone online, built multimedia strategies, and constructed complex relational databases. The contemporary political campaign adopts digital technologies that improve reach and fund-raising and at the same time adapts its organizational behavior. The new system of producing political culture has immense implications for the meaning of citizenship and the basis of representation.


  • Outstanding Book Award 2008, International Communication Association.
  • Best Book Award 2006, Communication Technology & Society Section, American Sociological Association.

What People Say

Howard’s book is a masterful thick description of the inevitable confluence of two powerful institutions in American politics — the networked computer and the political campaign establishment. He tracks the growth of hypermedia, implanted campaigns, political redlining and explains the meaning of your political ‘data shadow.’ He follows the struggles of the community of young high-tech consultants as they try to balance the need to make a living, to win elections, and also follow their shared ideals about empowering a better informed electorate. It is an important story. He is a great story teller. And he has an amazingly keen eye for enriching our theoretical understanding of the evolving digital public sphere.

W. Russell Neuman
University of Michigan

Howard cogently outlines the possibilities, and particularly the potential dangers, of new technologies for deliberative democracy. Using an ethnographic approach, the author provides an understanding of the organizational norms and personal perspectives of key operators engaged in political campaigning through electronic means.


The strengths of this book are many. It overflows provocative theoretical claims….interviews with consultants and case studies organizations produce fascinating insights….an innovative way to reseach decentralized communities

John Sides
George Washington University, Political Science Quarterly

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Technology and Society
Public Policy
Research Methods
International Affairs