We’ll keep things simple: no matter who you’re rooting for, today’s a big day in politics. A historic day. Either President Barack Obama gets four more years, or Mitt Romney wins his bid for the White House. Most US political polls have the candidates in a dead heat. Voter suppression efforts seem to be getting some attention in various parts of the US. Voter turnout is still, as we write this, a big question mark. A lot of things could happen in the next 48, maybe even 72 hours. One of the two candidates could win in a landslide and the whole thing could be over by midnight. Or it could be a virtual tie, and the election could be dragged out for days.
What we know is this: The next couple of days will be the biggest political event in social media’s short lifespan. Millions of people will be tweeting, blogging, updating their Facebook accounts, posting photos and videos, discussing their experiences, their opinions, their hopes and fears and dreams. Millions of people will be sharing their election with the rest of the world, and for those of us who study human behavior online and offline, it’s going to be a fascinating experiment in qualitative and quantitative digital data mapping.
To make your digital experience as fun, rewarding and immersive as possible, we’ve put together a short list of digital tools you might want to dedicate a screen, device or browser tab to. If you have any to share that you feel should figure on this list, definitely share them with us. We’ll add them.
1. Build a 2012 Election Watch Tickr page.
Track news, blog posts, tweets, instagram photos and more on just one self-refreshing page with a timeline-based activity graph. You can drill down into every time block and see what’s going on, or you can just let the content windows give you a general sense for the latest news and opinions. It’s really easy.
If you don’t have a pro account, just use the free trial version. You won’t get every single piece of content that the pro and enterprise versions would dig up, but you will get a pretty good feel for what is going on. Anything that goes viral or gets any traction at all will turn up in the feed. (In a way, the free version turns out to be a nice skimming-off-the-top option sometimes.)
Click here or on the screen shot below to go to the page we already set up for you. If you want to build your own election watch page, click here and follow the simple instructions.
2. As poll results start to come in, test out possible scenarios with the Wall Street Journal’s interactive election map. See if you can predict the outcome of the election before anyone else does. It even has the 2004 and 2008 election maps for you to reference, which is kind of handy. Check it out:
3. As results get more certain as time goes by, use the New York Times’ 512 Paths to the White House online app to help you quickly understand where things can go next. All you have to do is scroll your cursor over any part of the tree to see where things go from there. When a state gets called, click on it (above the graph) and the app will rebuild the graph for you. If either of the candidates gets the required amount of electoral votes to win, you will be rewarded with their beaming mug. It’s slick and clever, and we really like that one. Here’s what it looks like before the counting begins:
4. Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight blog has been one of the most talked prognostication resources this year. This is your chance to see if the numbers guy was right (again). There are tons of great resources on that page, so definitely devote a tab to it. You’ll want to consult it regularly.
5. Still from the New York Times, also check out the interactive electoral map. We like the geovolume blocks & bubbles design. It’s also interactive, so you can let the site create scenarios for you, or you can create your own by just moving the states around from one side of the screen to the other. Pretty slick.
Note: Many of these tools also allow you to track state and other elections, so feel free to dig deeper than the big Presidential race.
Between those five tools, Google’s Politics & Elections page and your favorite TV channels, you should be set to track the final sprint of the election like a pro.
Cheers, and see you on the other side of this one.
6. Here’s another cool interactive resource you might enjoy. (Hat tip to Sally Crunch – @MaverickNY on twitter – and Jamie Cara Kennedy.) It’s C-Span’s historical map of the electoral college. By scrolling along the timeline, you can see how every presidential election played out since 1900 (McKinley-Bryan). You’ll be seeing red and blue for days, but it’s a fascinating way to visualize history using a simple political map.