From Labor Intensive Campaigns to Technology Intensive Campaigns

An analysis of the evolution of campaigning over the last 20 years and how labor intensive and technology intensive campaign have learned to cooperate and work together.

Lucie Moulin
5 min read
From Labor Intensive Campaigns to Technology Intensive Campaigns

Can we say that the way of campaigning has radically changed over the last 20 years?

Born in the 90’s I’m part of a generation which has seen the very first political digital campaigning arise. The first time I heard about technology intensive campaigning, was after the first election of Barack Obama in 2008.

Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign kicked off our current technological revolution. His integrated use of social networking both online and offline as well as grassroots organization pioneered an entirely new way of campaigning. This was possible because technology has provided tools to scale engagement and movement in a way we could never have dreamed of before…

Like everyone at that time I was fascinated by the way tech was starting to be used in political campaigns. However, as with every disruptive technology, we needed some time to work out the kinks. Finally, after trying (and failing), and overcoming the dreaded Shiny Object Syndrome, it looks like the fledgling campaign tech industry has finally come of age.

But it is still a long road to the age of tech-intensive campaign….

From Labor Intensive Campaign to Technology Intensive Campaign

In the 1900’s the industry was highly localized and labor-intensive, with little information and few available tools. Mass advertising and public opinion polling emerged following the 1950s, which revolutionized campaigning but at great financial cost.

As I said before, the last 20 years have placed a whole new generation of tools at the candidates’ disposal. Higher Ground Labs described this evolution in their 2018 Technology Landscape Analysis Report. In their report, they gave an in-depth analysis of the various tools born out of our current technology-intensive age of campaigning.

Gone are the days of expensive, broad-reaching PR campaigns. In the new political order, tech-driven strategy is king.

One of the most striking example is the U.S: in 2017, investments in campaign technology skyrocketed. Politicians are finally understanding that the message is not enough to win an election. You need the right tools to get it across — at the right time, and with the right constituents.

Today, we know what works and what doesn’t work in an election— and we understand how to leverage the power of campaign tech to make the most impact.

What is the scope of these changes?

MIT Technology Review studied the rapid developments that have occurred in the previous decade, from Mitt Romney’s failed Orca platform to Donald Trump’s targeted communication tactics. Democratic disruptor Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has continued to lead the change with her social media savvy and viral video.

Higher Grounds Labs has defined the eight interlocking categories of tools that dominate the American political tech market.

Although I’ve told you a lot about tech in political campaigning it remains that the scope of these changes are not exclusive to the political sphere but technology is also used for long term movements and organizations.

NGOs, unions and the corporate industry can all take advantage of these technology intensive campaigning tools for mobilization. As an example, we made a video last year about how the non profit organization, Black Lives Matter, used technology to support its cause and to outsmart opposition. Check out right here: How to outsmart your opposition?

Tech intensive campaign does not mean the end of labor intensive campaign

I want to highlight that the emergence of tech intensive campaigning over the last 20 years is far from putting field activism and direct contact with citizens on the back burner. On the contrary, it allowed a resurgence of the practices that existed in the era of labor intensive campaigning.

Why? Because technology has allowed a limited number of activists to have a strong impact on a territory. It has transformed each volunteer into a local influencer. At a time where people trust less traditional media and authority figures, volunteers appear as being closer to people, and are more trusted. It has allowed to connect people and to re-engage those who were excluded from the democratic process.

Finally, where without technology a much larger number of activists would have been needed, a small group of volunteers well technologically equipped can now cover large area thanks to targeting. In other words, technology has enabled candidates to better target key territories so that they can strategically allocate their labor resources to have the best impact.

Qomon is for those fighting for what they believe deserves powerful tools to organise and engage better. Our software helps campaigns, movements, organizations to mobilize their activists and interact with constituents where it matters the most: in real life and on the ground.

Other European entrepreneurs are continuing to pioneer ways to engage with voters and citizens and spread the word. As the civic tech industry continues to involve, one thing is certain: the revolution is just getting started.

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