By Kirsten A. Foot and Steven M. Schneider
Reading this 2006 book is really a fascinating exercise in 2010. Foot and Schneider aim to understand technology adoption and deployment patterns by viewing campaigns as sociotechnical networks (p.14) - specifically the "web spheres," the "dynamically defined digital resources spanning multiple Web sites deemed relevant or related to a central event, concept, or theme" (p.20). They examine campaigns' web spheres in 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004, and they find that these web spheres performed at least four functions: informing, involving, connecting, and mobilizing (chapters 3-6 respectively). Each function is broken down into different components, so we can see how web spheres have tended to develop each component and function over time (see p.158).
Despite the many changes we've seen since 2004, this fourfold heuristic seems really useful for understanding how web presences have developed over time. What really intrigued me was that the changes were so deep between 2004 and 2008, when two of the most innovative and intriguing presidential campaigns used social media in radically expanded ways. Yes, Obama was one, but Ron Paul's minimal-core, social-media-heavy campaign was the other. Another development: we've seen the permanent campaign develop its own continuous-process "voting" mechanism, the money bomb, enacted partially through social media. I'm wondering how these changes will register in Foot and Schneider's follow-up work: will they be able to fit them into existing categories or will they develop additional ones? Will they continue to be able to trace web spheres in the way they could in the relatively limited campaigns of 2004?
In any case, Foot and Schneider have come up with a strong analytical framework for understanding web presences. The examples are now dated, but the framework should be able to bear more recent analyses. If you're interested in web campaigning, certainly pick this one up.