M-Campaigning: Mobile Technology and Public Outreach


In 2008, candidate Barack Obama pioneered several innovative applications of digital technology. With the help of the Internet, he raised $750 million. He made use of social media platforms such as Facebook and MySpace to identify and communicate with supporters around the country. And through, he launched virtual get-togethers with voters in many different locales simultaneously.

Four years later, we see another wave of innovation enabled by mobile technology in the United States and around the world. Smartphones and handheld devices have proliferated and now outnumber desktop computers. Candidates, voters, activists, and reporters are using these vehicles for public outreach, fundraising, field organization, political persuasion, media coverage, and government accountability. Unlike 2008, where text messaging was the dominant feature of mobile campaign outreach, this year there has been a proliferation of mobile ads, video, web links, and apps.

As part of our Mobile Economy Project, I review innovative examples of campaign outreach made possible through mobile technology. I show how smartphones expand the opportunities for mobilization and ways in which certain policy steps would expand citizen participation.

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