Learning Politics Through Design

CNN Election Center 2008

CNN’s Election Center 2008 delivers not only a monumental amount of well thought out data-driven design, information architecture and Flash/AJAX wizardry, but the site itself may quite possibly represents the largest lesson in politics that’s ever been delivered to the American public in one full sitting.

Think about it.

Newspapers have tried in the past, but they’ve always been a day late and a dollar too much–not to mention totally degradable. Television, at the risk of being cliché, just reduces everything into meaningless sound bites. And radio can’t even come close to the the level of granularity needed to compare data as contained in multiple charts, graphs, and interactive widgets. While I’ve taken issue with the way CNN has egregiously presented visual data in the past, I think the job they’re doing with Election Center is for the most part exceptional.

Where else can you learn that Tom Hanks gave Barack Obama‘s campaign $4,600, while only giving Hilary Clinton $2,300? Or that the process of using delegates is completely different between parties. After digesting a good chunk of the visualized information on CNN, it’s become apparent to me that I still have a lot to learn about things I just assumed to know.

This kind of instructional reach should be especially encouraging to future generations. Ultimately, it’s their gain should they continue to consume and expand upon the Internet as it’s being used today. Because as they become more informed about the government through simple methods of user interaction and experience, they might also become inspired, if not empowered, into changing it one day.