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


Felipe Francois

2012 distribution

Each individual in our group is analyzing a specific election and using our own methods for spatial history, data mining and analysis, textual analysis, and visual and aural artifacts. This is because we are each covering unique elections in which the technology available varied significantly from the 1960s until modern times.

I plan to use data mining and analysis to construct my argument of the correlation between debates and outcome of the election in determining the winner. This includes statistical analysis of polling data before and after debates, along with graphs to support data. For visual artifacts, I will use videos from research organizations that were done on the same topic with more in-depth and conclusive research to help support our argument. Some of our aural artifacts will be YouTube clips of voters’ responses. There are also interactive maps from one of CNN’s own John King segments, but I’m not sure if I would be able to embed a working map into our website. These maps will be used to show turning points in the election before and after debates as a result of voter response to candidates. I will use textual analysis through newspaper articles from various prominent sources such as The New York Times and Huffington Post. We will also analyze debate transcripts through Wordle to see what words were frequently used, which might tell us what the important issues were for voters during the election.

Robert Sorenson

1992 distribution

To show important aspects of the 1992 presidential debates, and how they affect voting tendencies, I plan on using several methods to fulfill the requirements related to the assignment. Visual artifacts will be used, using images of each of the debates and images of particular moments that affected the viewers. Examples would be Bush’s infamous time check, Clinton becoming close and personal with his audience in a town hall debate format, and the layout of each debate. As this is visual, the aural aspect will be similar. I will embed videos that show important times of the debates, such as Perot’s humorous one liners that grabbed national attention, and attacks by Bush and Clinton on each other.These images and moments are iconic of the 92 debate and surely affected voters. I will show how this affected voters by using statistical numbers collected by CNN which polled voters after each debate and asked who they thought won each debate. This data will be used to create a graph of each, which is an analyzing tool. I have examined the transcripts of the first debate and inserted it into wordle, a means of textual analysis, wordle can show us what important themes were present for the debates. These themes are important because they relate to the viewers and a correlation can be made from the individual words and phrases used by each candidate and how it affected voters opinions. Certain words such as “money”, “economy”, and “country” are important to the public, especially since going into the ‘92 debate the economy was in the doldrums. This background info has helped me understand why Perot was such a contender because of his sharp business record. Interviews directly following each debate with random undecided voters gives an important insight into their opinions of the debate. I am using PBS interviews with people that are undecided, there are teachers, college students and manufacture workers that share their feelings towards each debate. As i analyze these interviews i can create an argument that tells an important story as to what issues touches them, and how it will affect their voting tendencies. Candidates who empathize job creation will certainly grab the attention of jobless voters (such as Clinton attacking Bush for the jobless rate at the time). Voters who are more concerned with the economic condition of our country will be intrigued by what Perot has to say because it was the underlying theme of his campaign. These are all aspects that influence voters on election day. Using these interview transcripts are an example of textual analysis.

Jordan Smith

1960 Distribution

Seeing as the debates of 1960 were the very first Presidential Debates ever to be televised, the general opinions and reactions of voters were extremely varied and possibly naive due to the initial shock of actually being able to see the candidates argue one on one. The visual nature of these debates played a massive role in the representation and coverage of each candidate throughout the media, and more importantly, in the eyes of the voters. Within my analysis of these debates I will focus largely on visual components to supplement my argument, such as actual footage of the debates, what pictures were printed in the newspapers of the time, and video/photographs taken on each campaign trail. The method of what is now modern campaigning, a process highly reliant on striking visual rhetoric, was born in the broadcast of the 1960 debates and I plan on bringing that spirit into my work.

The platforms for which voters could publicly voice their opinions regarding their perspective on the Presidential Debates of 1960 were very limited compared to those of 2012, and 1992 to a lesser degree. National polls, television interviews, newspaper editorials and letters will be my main source of primary textual evidence of the voters opinions. I am exploring the potential of Wordle in bringing some of the key themes to the surface, however, I am interested in finding a software in which I can find more complex strings or phrases within the testimonials of voters. As the primary voter opinion in 1960 is not as prevalent for examination compared to that of the other elections our group is studying, I will need to take the information I do have and apply different methods of analysis so as to extract the core of each message.


 Instigators: Bibliography

Primary sources:

Commission on Presidential Debates (1960,1992,2012): http://www.debates.org/

2012 Debate Transcripts:

1      October-3-2012-debate-transcript

2      October-11-2012-the-biden-romney-vice-presidential-debate

3      October-1-2012-the-second-obama-romney-presidential-debate

4      Last Presidential-debate-full-transcript

Research on Presidential debates:


Youtube Clips and Audio


  1. First Debate – Nixon v. Kennedy (video) : debate link
  2.   Second Debate – Nixon v. Kennedy (video): [Part one link; Part two linkPart three link; Part four link.
  3.   Third Debate – Nixon v. Kennedy (video): [ Part one link; Part two link;Part three link; Part four link.
  4.   Fourth Debate – Nixon v. Kennedy (audio) : [ Part one link;Part two link; Part three link ;Part four link.

Secondary Sources:

Media Myth Surrounding the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debates & the Boston Globe : Angelia Levy /2010/05/09/ media myth surrounding the 1960 Presidential debates


argument: upon researching, we are inclined to argue that each of these debates had an effect on voter decisions, although not as significant as many assumed. The impact was mostly related to the demeanor and behavior each candidate portrayed while on stage answering questions.  The simplicity and wording of their answers and debate styles had a positive effect on swing voters.  (to be refined)


Instigator Group members: Robert Sorenson, Jordan Smith, Felipe Francois

Archiving History Digitally Historical question:  What effect did the debates have on, specifically, the 1960, 1992, and 2012 presidential election outcomes?

Workload: Jordan will be covering the 1960 debates/election, Robert will be researching the 1992 debates/election, and Felipe will be working on this year’s debates/elections. We will be focusing on undecided voters, as they are the most influenced by debates. Some of the outlets we are considering for our debate feedback are CNN, Fox, the New York Times qand other online sources.

Some obvious challenges we anticipate are with respect to collecting data. Like getting access to recordings, transcripts and poll data of the debates. Another problem is how do we put the information together so that it makes sense and reflect the actual debate. Lastly keeping our own biases at bay so that we represent the facts as they appear.

Possible sources for the debates are:

Commission on Presidential Debates.- http://www.debates.org/

2012 Election Centralhttp://www.2012presidentialelectionnews.com/2012-debate-schedule/2012-presidential-debate-schedule/

FactCheck.org. – http://factcheck.org/2012/11/obamas-numbers-updated/

Pew Research Centerhttp://pewresearch.org/

270 To Win270toWin,

Gallupgallup polls,

We plan to use wordle, Fusion Table and other major social networking sites, such as Twitter, tumblr to give a gage of this presidential election. For the other earlier years we’ll use exit polls of those elections since we didn’t have those technology in the years we choose. We will be doing more research on how we will handle the issue of data mining.

270 to Win! [entry-title]



This screenshot of a map comes from the political forecast website 270 to Win.
While the map that I’ve included strongly presents the proposed electoral votes for each candidate in the upcoming Presidential election, the most powerful tool within the website is its option to filter through past years election, as well as a host of other interesting map options. The website provides a comprehensive look at the elections now, and past, by utilizing simple graphics which display a world of multi-dimensional data.


Within this map shows the data for the leading Countries in respect to the amount of television sets that their people own. A tool such as this is invaluable to what our group, Instigators, needs to display the data we will utilize to tell the impact of the debates on swing state voters.

Being able to visualize exactly the impact of the debates will add depth to the information, and in return give the audience a more nuanced expression of what we are presenting. This tool will play an extremely vital role in our process as we now have the ability to present multi-dimensional data to tell our story.


1. JSTOR – Spin (and Pitch) Doctors

2. The New York Times – Politics

3. 270 To Win – Electoral Analysis

4. Twitter – #Debates


Being in the midst of the debates, as we are today, it would be hard to read through any newspaper or watch the nightly news without hearing of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates. Pundits and analysts are quick to jump on every word, interruption, and perceived mistake in order to determine who “won.” With this in mind, our group The Instigators, aim to analyze all possible information in order to see if the debates truly make a difference. Many believe that at this point in the campaign cycle, most voters have already decided well in advance who they plan on voting for; however, for those still on the fence, could the debates truly sway them in either direction?


Given these circumstances, data mining will serve as an invaluable tool in the examination of the countless information released in response to the debates. Finding the correlations between live-real-time reactions from online sources such as Twitter, Facebook, and various RSS feeds, will shed light on the question of voter-impact. It is imperative to approach this question on importance of the debates from many different angles, in order to provide a more nuanced response to a complex question. While many individual sources will claim to provide their own idea of the “winner” of each debate, the general data that will be received by our group may in fact not be as simple as yes/no, Democrat/Republican.


As a sub-focus, it may also be important to mine data regarding third party candidates and their lack of inclusion in all of the debates.



History 3460: Digital History

Group Name: Instigator

Group members: Robert Sorenson, Jordan Smith, Felipe Francois

Archiving History Digitally


There are a few questions that our group, Instigators, seeks to find answers to on the current presidential election. How much influence do the debates between candidates affect and change the outcome of the polls coming closer to the election?  How much influence do the debates affect who actually wins the elections? Have any previous elections been decided solely on debate performance?

Although we have considered the actual debates as a guide for our research questions we don’t actually know the scope to which we should go about answering our questions. Some of the outlets we are considering for our debate feedback are CNN (they display a meter for a cohort of undecided voters during the live debates to depict their feelings toward what each candidate is saying), Gallop, Fox, and the New York Times as well as other online sources.

Some obvious challenges we anticipate are with respect to collecting data. Such as getting access to recordings, transcripts and poll data of the debates. Choosing a single method of collaboration could also be a tough decision because it will be a basis for understanding what we each gather. Another problem is how to put the information together so it makes sense and reflects the actual debate. Lastly, keeping our own biases at bay so that we represent the facts as they appear.