The politics of new media, space, and race: A socio-spatial analysis of the 2008 presidential election

Michael J. Stern
Bryan D. Rookey, University of Portland

New Media & Society, 2012, Volume 15, Issue 5, 519-540.

© The Authors

Linked version is the final published version.

Abstract

Recent national, regional, and community-level research has shown that the Internet has the potential to provide a powerful medium for political engagement. Yet, systematic analyses that consider space and place as critical components of this area of research are lacking. This issue is important inasmuch as the extant literature has clearly shown that the diffusion of sophisticated Internet technology to some places has been slow and that the use of high-speed broadband modems has a significant impact on using the technology for social and economic purposes.The data for this study come from the nationally representative Pew Internet and American Life Study conducted in November 2008 directly after the United States presidential election.Although the results are consistent with previous research on both spatial and digital inequality in terms of Internet use, the interactions between race and place suggest that it is not just that the Obama campaign used new media to mobilize constituents, but that these efforts were realized in a particular region of the country and were particularly influential in given segments of the population. Implications for future research and the value of digital capital are discussed.