When the Nerds Go Marching In: How Digital Technology Moved from the Margins to the Mainstream of Political Campaigns

Research output: Book/ReportScholarly editionpeer-review


This book charts the increasing use of digital technologies in election campaigns among established democracies from the mid-1990s onward. It reveals how the new medium has moved from being a novelty item to a necessity for any candidate or party now seriously contemplating a run for political office. It argues this process has occurred in four main phases to date - experimentation, standardization, community building and direct voter mobilization - and shows how these phases have played out with reference to four particular cases - the U.S. the UK, France and Australia. It argues that has digital technology is now assuming centre-stage in election management and changing the ‘art’ of campaigning into something more like a science. While initially there were hopes that the new media would lead to a devolution of power down to the grassroots and give members and supporters a stronger ‘co-production’ role in running the campaign, later developments have challenged this early optimism. A new power elite, comprised of data analysts and software engineers, are now entering the top echelons of campaign management and taking the reins in decision-making.. Thus, while the central conclusion of the book broadly endorses the idea that the internet has ‘normalized’ electoral politics by reinforcing the power of the main parties and those who run them, it subverts and reformulates that narrative to an extent. Rather than understanding this process as one in which seasoned ‘politicos’ rise to the fore, it is instead seen as one where power concentrates increasingly in a new group of non-traditional ‘apoliticos’. Such individuals are characterized by their lack of field experience in fighting elections but extensive expertise in the use of ‘big’ data to model and predict their outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020

Publication series

NameDigital Politics
PublisherOxford University Press


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