When I hear the phrase "political action," I think of public demonstrations. But the most influential form of political action has nothing to do with making a sign or attending a rally--it's about donating money, and it's not done in public.
To visualize this (mostly invisible) form of political action, artist-researcher Mauro Martino, sociologist Sasha Goodman, and other members of Northeastern University's LazerLab team created software to download, process, and geocode data from thousands of files submitted to the Federal Election Commission by political action committees (PACs). Next, they used several visualization tools to create an animation showing the location and timing of campaign contributions throughout 2012. They zeroed in on Boston, because that's where they live, but the model could be applied anywhere.
Here's the result:
On the project's website, the researchers explain their visualization, which they call "MoneyBombs," this way:
In an email, Martino told me that the LazerLab team--which is dedicated to the study of social networks and human behavior--created the visualization to show how campaign contributions follow "a predictable pattern of waiting punctuated by moments of intense action." Also, Martino says, "We were motivated by uncovering what people around us were doing politically."
You can view more MoneyBomb animations on the team's website.
The amount of money that is used in a campaign is quite staggering.
The 2008 campaign was the costliest in history, with a record-shattering $5.3 billion in spending by candidates, political parties and interest groups on the congressional and presidential races.
That sum marks a 27 percent increase over the $4.2 billion spent on the 2004 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which compiled the figures.
So what does America get back for all the 5.3 billion dollars spent in 2008 and time of all those involved that is spent on the election process? Did anybody notice any real improvements on quality of life or infrastructure in America?
Here is my suggestion:
1.5 billion for upgrades to day care centers and pre-schools
2.5 billion for upgrades to the public education system
1.3 billion for renewable energy research and development programs
I would rather see the money go to engineers and construction workers who build something that directly benefits the population and stands for years than a bunch of smiling politicos and their on-hangers that produce tons of balloons, paper and media time which most of ends up in the garbage after the election.