Feedback for Instigators

Dear Instigators:

It’s clear you’ve done a lot of thinking, compiled a significant amount of sources, and have done an effective job of going to school on the debates in the elections you’ve selected. You also — in your presentation, and in our discussions inside and outside of class — have done a fine job articulating how we can understand the role of the debates in the elections you’ve examined. The notion of “momentum” is key to this.

Your site does not, however, do as effective a job as it might in making your case. It frankly looks like you guys ran out of time, which is understandable. But there are a few steps we feel you should take before moving on from this project. The best strategy for accomplishing this would be to work on how your argument is framed. Your site would benefit from an introduction and a conclusion, and would also benefit from referring to your overall argument about momentum throughout the site. Without already knowing this was your argument, it would be hard for us to discern it from the current state of your site.

You guys could also do a better job of contextualizing your data and sources, and also reading them with and against each other. The 1960 section presents an advertisement, but just kind of floats it out there. What does this ad mean, in relationship to the debates? Additionally for 1960, more data on the first debate — which Jordan notes is the most influential — would go a long way to making that case. This part of your argument is not clear until the end of that section. What other data do you have on this debate? More polls? Qualitative sources? Research into the campaign strategy following the debate?

For 1960, the integration of photos — the black and white against the black and white WordPress theme — looks fantastic. A good aesthetic choice.

For 1992, you could use more contextualization of the polling data for the first debate — it’s just kind of put out there. You could also use some data to make your point about the status of the candidates going into that debate. You also note: “Polls revealed that Perot had won the first debate and Bush was struggling.” What polls are you referring to? You mention Clinton took part in an “electronic town hall” before the debates. What is that? This is symptomatic of your larger tendency to miss potential connections between sources– those connections form the fibers of your argument, they pull everything together.

Love the screenshots of the iconic moments, but those need to be described for the reader. Tell us about them. Interpret them.

In the “synthesis” section, you say the debate was “full of name calling”… but where is that in the body of your presentation? Where’s your evidence? Where is the relationship to “momentum” in this section?

For 2012 — fantastic intro. We like what you did with social media in the Wordle, but it could use more analysis. Send us a link for the Gallup video and we’ll embed it for you. We could use closer analysis of what The Debate Pulse video of second debate shows us. The General Election interactive map isn’t visible. And the final post needs contextualization– your words, not just the data. The 2012 section is strong, but loses steam towards the end, and this ultimately leaves the project feeling very unfinished.

Overall, you guys can think a bit more about design components. Do you want comments on the front page (you can turn them off on selected pages/posts)?

And: we want to see a bibliography page. You guys have done a lot of research, and did a decent job of citing throughout. Create a page on your site to show what you did.

We think if you focus on these questions and put a few more hours into the site before the final due date, you’ll have something you can be very proud of.

Luke and Tom