Networked Campaigns:
Traffic Tags and Cross Platform Analysis on the Web

Greg Elmer

This paper defines a new methodological framework to examine emerging forms of political campaigning on and across Web 2.0 platforms (i.e. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter) in the North-American context. The proposed method seeks to identify the new strategies that make use of campaign texts, users, keywords, information networks and software code to spread political communications and rally voters across distributed, and therefore seemingly unmanageable, spheres of online communication. The proposed method differentiates itself from previous Web 1.0 methods focused on mapping hyperlinked networks. In particular, we pay attention to the new materiality of the Web 2.0 as constituted by shared objects that circulate across modular platforms. In this paper we develop an object-centered method through the concept of traffic tags – unique identifiers that by enabling the circulation of web objects across platforms organize political activity online. By tracing the circulation of traffic tags, we can map different sets of relationships among uploaded and shared web objects (text, images, videos, etc), political actors (online partisans, political institutions, bloggers, etc), and web based platforms (social network sites, search engines, political websites, blogs, etc).

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