Politics, data, capital

A headline at politico reads:

Karl Rove-linked company gets GOP data deal

Politics and economics interact in different ways. In recent years one particular interaction has developed in the area of intellectual property, specifically data collection and analysis. Just as large-scale economic organizations have emerged that produce and catalog data — Google, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Linkedin, etc — political organizations, too, have begun to view data as sought-after capital.

This structural evolution has been well-covered, and even has a recognizable name: Big Data. For a recent example, here’s a Business Insider story outlining multiple ways Facebook plans to improve its capacity to provide data analytics.

I think it’s important to point out what kind of data are meant when referencing “big data.” For the most part it means two kinds of data: one, geo/cyber-spatial data (where humans are, and how they can be reached); and two, sociology-of-knowledge data (what humans think and why). Amassing email addresses is an example of the first kind of data collection. The subsequent use of this email address to ask questions of individuals to gather insight about how audiences interpret the world around them, is an example of the second kind of data collection. I call this ‘socialized knowledge.’ It often comes in the form of text. It can then be quantitatively analyzed, say by looking for which words are mentioned most often and by whom. Text can also be qualitatively analyzed by keeping strings of words “whole” and mining for meaning and context.

Both kinds of textual analysis, when done systematically and with sound theory, can let clients know how audiences and potential audiences interpret the client and the things in which the client has an interest. I call it socialized knowledge because it primarily deals with the knowledge held by socially configured individuals and groups acting within contexts dictated by the needs of the client.

I am not sure which one of these two forms of data analysis is the one in which Rove is most interested. The politico story does not make the distinction. But the distinction matters. Gathering emails and addresses helps GOTV efforts, i.e. turning out your base. Analyzing the general beliefs of people, on the other hand, can re-introduce Republicans to American audiences outside the shell of FOX, Rush Limbaugh, etc.

Ok, I tipped my hand with that last statement. My acting hypothesis is that the Republican Party suffers from an intellectual capital deficit in comparison with the Democratic Party. Data operations like what Rove is pulling off will not necessarily give the Republicans an advantage. More likely, collecting better intellectual property will close a sizable gap that the Democrats currently hold. By closing this gap, the GOP will be better positioned to capitalize upon its other advantages.

My intervention upon what Rove has begun is: collect text. Getting out your current followers is not enough. You need new ones, too, and for that you need textual data from varying classifications of audiences, collected and analyzed by people with skills. It would seem all you have now is ingrained ideological hopes.

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This entry was posted in hard data, intangible assets, intellectual property, Media and knowledge, political sociology, politics, qualitative sociology of economics and politics, sociology, Symbolic data, The End of the GOP. Bookmark the permalink.

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