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The Lemelson Center's
2012 New Perspectives on Invention and Innovation Symposium November 2-3, 2012
Warner Bros. Theater, National Museum of American History
The Lemelson Center marked this election year with Political Machines: Innovations in Campaigns and Elections, a symposium that examined the role of invention and technology in electoral politics. Through this lens, we temporarily shifted the focus away from the candidates and issues to examine the critical role that political “machinery”--campaign advertisements, voting machines, automated opinion polls, and others--play in our democracy. When these technologies work well, they often go unnoticed; when they fail (remember hanging chads and “Dewey Beats Truman”?), the consequences can be momentous.
Political Machines brought together scholars, government policymakers, campaign strategists, and members of the news media to focus on the historic and contemporary role of technology in the electoral process. Our sessions employed formats typically seen on the campaign trail, including a keynote address, stump speeches, and interactive “town hall” Q&A sessions with our speakers. And an audience response system gave everyone a vote on various questions posed during the symposium!
Friday, November 2
8 - 9:30 p.m. Warner Brothers Theater, First Floor, National Museum of American History
Arthur Molella, Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Director, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, National Museum of American History
Delivering the Message: Advertising
In this media-rich presentation, David Schwartz presented selections from his online exhibit, The Living Room Candidate, which features more than 300 television commercials from every presidential election since 1952. Schwartz examined the persuasive techniques employed in these ads and explored the role of various technological platforms--from biographical films to 30-second television ads to YouTube--in the evolution of political advertising.
1964 "Gold Water Can." Division of Political History, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian.
Saturday, November 3
10:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Warner Brothers Theater, First Floor, National Museum of American History
10:30 a.m. - 11:30a.m. Setting the Stage: Keynote Address
Welcome Arthur Molella, Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Director, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, National Museum of American History
Keynote Address: Technology in Campaigns and Elections
In this wide-ranging address, Darrell M. West set the context for the sessions that followed by describing the historical, contemporary, and future role of technology and innovation in governance and the electoral process.
Darrell M. West is the vice president and director of Governance Studies and the founding director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution.
Listen to the complete audio recording of the Keynote Address:
2000 Votomatic Punch Card Vote Recorder, Palm Beach County, Florida. Division of Political History, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian.
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. On the Road: Campaigning
How have candidates employed innovative campaign techniques and new technologies to deliver their messages, raise money, and garner grassroots support from voters? This session examined the technology and material culture of campaigning--from buttons and hand-painted convention signs to sophisticated Internet and social media platforms.
PANELISTS: Jon Grinspan is a doctoral candidate in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia.
Zephyr Teachout is an associate professor at the Fordham University School of Law and formerly the director of Internet organizing for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign.
MODERATOR: Eric S. Hintz is a historian with the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History.
Listen to the complete audio recording of the Campaigning session:
1984 Geraldine Ferraro for Vice-President campaign button. Division of Political History, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian.
2:00 p.m. -3:00 p.m. Crunching the Numbers: Polling
How have candidates and journalists utilized innovations in polling and statistical analysis to discern the mood of the electorate? In turn, how have citizens come to trust polling data as a reliable source of information? This session explored the evolution of public opinion research, from George Gallup’s door-to-door pollsters in the 1930s to the real-time dial-testing and automated phone banks employed by today’s strategists.
PANELISTS: Sarah E. Igo is an associate professor of history, political science, and sociology at Vanderbilt University.
Jon Cohen is the director of polling at TheWashington Post.
MODERATOR: William L. Bird is a curator in the Division of Political History at the National Museum of American History.
1908 William Jennings Bryan donkey and William H. Taft elephant figures. Division of Political History, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian.
3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Pulling the Curtain: Voting
What are the technologies that underpin our most cherished democratic institution--the right to vote? In this session, we examined the current state of election administration and explore a multitude of web-based and mobile technologies that may someday transform how we register, receive our ballots, and cast our votes.
PANELISTS: David Becker is the director of election initiatives at the Pew Center on the States.
Thad E. Hall is an associate professor of political science at the University of Utah.
MODERATOR: Jeffrey L. Brodie is the deputy director of the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History.
Listen to the complete audio recording of the Voting session:
1972 Spanish-language voter registration poster. Division of Political History, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian.
4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m. Closing Remarks
Artifacts and Autographs Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Lobby, outside the Warner Brothers Theater, First Floor
10 a.m. - noon and 1:30 - 4 p.m. Objects Out of Storage featuring historical campaign materials from the Museum’s archives