Taking Our Country Back: The Crafting of Networked Politics From Howard Dean to Barack Obama.

Author:Levenshus, Abbey Blake
Position:Book review
 
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Taking Our Country Back: The Crafting of Networked Politics From Howard Dean to Barack Obama. By Daniel Kreiss. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. 230 pp.

Daniel Kreiss's new book aims to trace how political personnel, organizations, and technologies intertwine and inform one another, providing a compelling behind-the-screen view of the infrastructure development and "myth-defying backstage that consumes much of the working lives of those active in politics" (p. 15). To do so, it draws from more than 60 interviews with Internet new media staffers, consultants, and volunteers; from the accounts of additional campaign staff, practitioners, and volunteers; and from Kreiss's own participant observation as an Obama campaign volunteer. The book's meticulous tracking of various technologies, firms, and staffers' careers contextualizes how the successful 2008 Obama campaign stood on the virtual shoulders of the 2004 Dean campaign. Ultimately, Kreiss's findings fill a gap in extant research by exploring the interrelationship of new media and politics through a lens primarily focused on those two campaigns.

The book is divided into six chapters. Chapter One lays the foundation for the book's purposes and contributions, the phenomena under study, and the methods used to study them. Here, the book develops a synergistic view of innovation, infrastructure, and organization to explain the contemporary landscape of "networked politics" referenced in the title. Kreiss defines the term as the "sustained and coordinated collective action that occurs outside of direct managerial relationships and [that] is premised on the voluntary contributions of supporters" (p. 6). Networked politics thus encompasses electoral activities enabled by computer networked technology and also refers to a way to organize and mobilize electoral participation.

Chapter Two explores the political and organizational climate leading up to Dean's Internet successes. It provides background on tools individual supporters were using such as Meetup and political blogs. The chapter specifically shows how the Dean Internet team harnessed these tools and linked them to goals and strategies. Kreiss usefully points out that the team's experimentation was strengthened by MoveOn staff guidance. By the end of the chapter, Dean has gained significant press attention for his campaign's successful use of new and existing electronic tools and its ability to translate those accomplishments into...

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