Feedback for Campaign Brain Drain

Dear Campaign Drain,

We appreciate the push you have made during recent weeks to narrow the scope of the project and locate an argument. Your openness and honesty about the struggle involved in settling on an argument has allowed others in the class, including the professors, to contemplate the best methods for identifying, communicating, and supporting an argument with digital tools. We encourage you to continue reflection on this process in your papers.

For starters, you can use your welcome page more effectively by adding some representation of your argument. This is valuable real estate on the site–most readers will be starting their journey through your site here. Instead of just listing the four types of analysis you will be doing, give an indication of what you found. This will put readers on notice about what is coming their way.

Great image on the welcome page, but it needs to be properly sourced. It should also be given a caption that guides the reader in what to make of it, especially how it relates to your argument.

You have rounded up a good amount of useful data, but need to more explicitly link it to the argument. Now that you have nailed down the argument, you need to pass carefully back over the data and read what it says about consistency and the implications of varying patterns of consistency. Every time a new set of data is presented, you should give readers guidance on what they should take away from it.

Related to this, you need to assess the meaning of data collectively–throughout you should add your interpretation of the data given that you are studying it in conjunction with related data. Presented separately, you are limited in the amount of meaning that you can draw out of the data. If you add a statement for each data set that explains what it shows about your argument relative to the other sets, you will be getting much more mileage out of that data.

Your citations page would be most appropriately placed at the bottom of the navigation menu, as opposed to right after the welcome where you have it now. Superb job giving full citation information and breaking down the list into primary and secondary sources. Regarding your note at the bottom about doing your best to rule out biased sources: it is good to see you are thinking through this, although please know that the best historians routinely include biased sources–they just proceed carefully, taking the time to understand the bias and read the sources accordingly. If you had thrown out all biased sources you would be left without any campaign speeches, since a campaign speech by definition has a distinct bias!

You may want to combine your historical argent and historical question pages since they are both sparse, and closely relate to one another.

On the 2004 page, the introduction should be sharpened. You open with, “Bush’s campaign in 2004 — just like Obama’s in 2012 — delivered solid and clear message to the voters when we compare them to their opponents.” This goes beyond assessing the consistency of message, which is what you can back with the data. You then say, “Their campaigns were better organized and funded,” which also goes beyond your data. You continue: “They were able to reach voters with their consistent message. And that was their winning strategy.” This is closer, but even here be careful not to overstate the claim. Your argument is that a consistent message in public addresses is an indicator of strength. This is a more modest, but still important, claim. Phillip appropriately constrained the argument when you guys presented on Wednesday, and that sense of constraint needs to be distributed throughout what you present.

Much of the 2004 is presented as a comparison with 2012 throughout. There should be some mention to the site visitors indicating why this is all happening on the 2004 page? Where is Kerry on the 2004 page (we clearly told you earlier to include Kerry data)? Comparing Bush’s performance in 2004 to Obama’s in 2012 doesn’t have the same effect because they weren’t running against each other. You say at the end of the page, “This [the Fusion table] is just another great tool in our arsenal and allows us to compare two different approaches used by Bush and Kerry.” But data on Kerry has not been presented.

For the videos on the 2004 page, the viewer should be given some indication on what conclusion you drew after watching the videos. They want to hear your expert opinion on what the comparison says about your argument. If you want to hold this until after they view the videos, that is okay, but you should not leave the sources without any interpretation.

For the 2004 page Fusion Table, a clearer connection needs to be made between the geographic campaigning pattern and rhetorical consistency. The 2008 Fusion table presentation is stronger in that it includes information from both the Obama and McCain campaigns, and the surrounding text describes the consistency of locations for delivering economic messages, although still leaves the reader unclear about the connection between words spoken and the location of the audience. The same can be said of the spatial analysis on the 2012 page.

The 2008 page shows persuasively that messages were repeated verbatim, but leaves it to the viewer to decide what this means, especially in terms of your argument. How do we know that consistency is an indication of strength and not something else? How do we know that consistency of message swayed the polls and not other forces?

The 2012 page includes a series of good data sets, but without transition sentences and fleshed-out captions for graphics, readers are left to piece together the collective meaning. You should add a strong introduction, conclusion, and transitions between the posts. This will give you space to explore the connection between the data and your argument and walk readers through the data along a clearly laid path.

Your Results page is very weak. This is where you want to re-assert your argument, and communicate to readers the implications of your findings. What you currently have on this page jumps around, at times contradicting your argument.

Ultimately, you should work through these suggestions and make the changes you can in the time you have. What you choose not to change you can then address in your papers.

Luke and Tom