Subverting Selectivity: Can music convey political information to the politically averse?

By Jessica Feezell

Kendrick Lamar @ Grosse Freiheit 36, Hamburg (9498442702)

By hds (Kendrick Lamar @ Grosse Freiheit 36, Hamburg) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally posted on The Crick Centre blog.

“So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?
When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me?
Hypocrite!”
-Kendrick Lamar, “The Blacker the Berry” (2015)

Researchers regularly explore the influence of various sources of political information including campaign advertisements, news, social media and entertainment such as late night comedy on people’s beliefs about politics. One source of information that has been largely overlooked, however, is music. In the current media environment, where those who want to avoid political information can do so more easily than ever before, it makes the question of ‘what can be learned from music’ even more pertinent.

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The Coming Blue Tide Needs Competition

by Craig Goodman

Last week, Tiffany Cartwright and Tyler Young published an interesting post on the changing demographics of Texas and how that might change the politics of the Lone Star State. Overall, it is a well-done piece and the sheer number of figures gives readers a lot to consider. However, while the demographics may point to change, pundits and many Democrats have been pointing to the so-called sleeping giant of Texas politics for nearly 2 decades and if anything, Texas has become a more Republican state over that period of time. Why has the predicted change failed to materialize? My suggestion is simple: the absence of an effective Democratic Party organization that can energize and mobilize Hispanic voters.

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Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 14: Person-to-Person

Mad Men cover

by Linda Beail and Lilly J. Goren

This post pays particular attention to the episode itself while drawing some broader conclusions about the arc of the entire Mad Men series as it pertains to Don Draper.

“Person to Person” focuses on the themes Mad Men has spent seven seasons exploring: relationships and missed connections, invisibility, nostalgia and moving forward, creation and creativity, the value and limits of work, appearance versus reality, emotion and commodification. It’s bookended by two important clients who have defined Don’s work and the arc of Sterling Cooper over the past few seasons: we begin with Chevy, the client who saved SCPD when Don won the account and joined forces with Ted Chaough to form a new agency, Sterling Cooper & Partners, as Don is seen racing a Chevy Chevelle SS across the Bonneville Salt Flats as a test driver. And of course, the episode ends with the iconic 1971 “Hilltop” Coke advertisement. Coca-Cola was the enticing account dangled in front of Don to make SC Partners’ being subsumed into McCann-Erickson palatable. Don has been on the road, running westward away from his career, his family, and his life; but he is also still on the carousel, turning back toward the next client and next new idea, and ultimately back east if we imagine what the future likely holds for Draper.

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Projecting Partisan Change Deep in the Heart of Texas

By Tiffany Cartwright Ph.D., and Tyler Young, Ed.D. candidate, Department of Political Science, Collin College

Almost every political pundit in the country has made their bet as to whether Texas will soon become a battleground state. Texas has gone for the Republican candidate in every presidential election since 1980. If Texas were to become a swing state, with its thirty-eight electoral votes, presidential candidates would want to start dusting off their old hats, breaking in their cowboy boots, and opening up their wallets to cover the twenty television markets in this vast state. In regards to presidential elections, the possible Republican loss of Texas’ 38 electoral votes (or 14% of what one needs to get to 270) would require the GOP to pick up the swing states of Ohio (18), Virginia (13), and Nevada (6) just to mitigate the damage of losing that one state. If Texas’ population continues to grow steadily as it has for decades, its share of the electoral college vote will only grow with it.

Figure 1. Percentage of U.S. Population Residing in Texas, source: U.S. Census Bureau Cartwright figure 1

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Mad Men, Season Seven, Episode Thirteen: The Milk and Honey Route

Mad Men cover

by Linda Beail and Lilly Goren

Where and how will Dick Whitman next reinvent himself, with that sly grin on his face, looking out at the horizon, sitting at the bus stop? The “milk and honey route” of this episode’s title is a hobo term for a railroad running through a valley of plenty where hobos were likely to find more food or help, according to 1920s sociologist Nels Anderson. Anderson cautions that what might be a “milk and honey route” for a young kid might be the opposite for another, older hobo, and that is certainly true in this episode. While Pete Campbell is “on a streak,” according to Duck Phillips, and young Andy the Oklahoma grifter ends up with a free Cadillac, other travelers are not so lucky. A bruised and battered Don sits alone at the side of the road, while Betty gets news that her studies and her life are about to be cut short by advanced-stage lung cancer, and Sally weeps over her mother’s parting instructions in her dorm room.

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What Can We Learn from 10.1 Million Facebook Users? “It’s Complicated.”

by Thomas Leeper

Earlier this week, Science published an article (ungated) by researchers at Facebook and the University of Michigan School of Information that was apparently sufficiently newsworthy enough to have merited immediate press attention in The New York Times. It’s also apparently sufficiently controversial to have earned a simultaneously published commentary in Science by David Lazer, a detailed rebuttal from Zeynep Tufekci, a line-by-line breakdown by Christian Sandvig, and a brief, but well-circulated critique by Eszter Hargittai.

The Science article that started it all notes in its abstract its major punchline: “Compared to algorithmic ranking, individuals’ choices about what to consume had a stronger effect limiting exposure to cross-cutting content.” In short, human behavior does more to create ideological echo chambers than the News Feed algorithm Facebook uses to display things it thinks you – as the user – might like to see.

What’s at-stake in this debate and why do we care?

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Meeting Jim Wright

by Matthew Green

Twelve years ago I wrote a letter to former Speaker Jim Wright, asking for an interview. I was a graduate student working on my dissertation about the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Barbara Sinclair had suggested that I talk to Wright.

Sinclair, a fearless interviewer, had plenty of experience talking with lawmakers. By contrast, I had done few interviews with political elites and none with a speaker, past or present. However, since I was planning on going to Texas to do archival research, I figured it was worth a try. So I sent the letter.

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