Hacking* for Democracy

Hacking for Democracy is an education initiative that applies design thinking to tackle the complex world of political representation. To do this, transdisciplinary student teams communicate with a variety of stakeholders, gather and analyze a variety of data, prototype and deliver solutions, and refine their personal strengths through collaboration and problem-solving.

*Hack – to improvise effectively; to take things apart and repurpose them to solve problems or create new products

See the Henry Ford Museum’s usage of the term “hack.”

Fall 2020 Class

Topics in American Policy

Students addressed complex issues and challenges for the 2020 elections, including how the presidential nominating process and Electoral College structure the game, and the impact and role of political parties, superPACs, interest groups and the media, with a special focus on the increasing role of social media. They also examined the role and impact of campaign strategy, tactics and operations, polling, campaign finance, presidential debates, and the importance of who turns out and why.

Teams of students developed and implemented solutions around the following:

  • Educating people about the importance of voting for democratic self-governance
  • Ensuring ballot access and voting rights, especially for traditionally marginalized and underserved communities
  • Mobilizing “Get Out The Vote” initiatives at James Madison University and in surrounding communities for full participation in the #2020Elections.

This course draws on expertise from a variety of disciplines, including political science, computer science, media arts and design, technical communication, marketing and psychology. Theoretical and empirical scholarship are required and made available in modules on Canvas. Readings and discussions also draw on contemporary news and analysis, as well as a range of data sources used by political scientists.

Read more about the class here: Hacking4Democracy: 2020 Elections Student Course Reflections

Class Website

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