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A U.S. Political Conventions & Campaigns website has drawn more than 4,000 unique visitors and gathered more than 33,000 pageviews since it launched in August.
A professor and students at Northeastern University developed the website to provide an in-depth, nonpartisan look at conventions and campaigns. The site features interviews with at least 24 people across the political spectrum who have been involved in various aspects of politics. In an educational and interesting way, the Northeastern team shows that campaigns have real consequences, said Dan Urman, director of the executive doctorate in law and policy at Northeastern University and lecturer.
"Politics matters whether you like it or not," Urman said. "The air you breathe, the rights you have, the fact that you have to go to school, the fact that you have to wear a seat belt, the fact that companies have to clean up their waste — all those things are a product of politics."
While people ages 18 to 29 make up 21 percent of the eligible voter population, they made up 17 percent of people who voted in the last presidential election in 2008, according to a 2009 Project Vote report. And as of that November, just under half of the 3.7 million citizens who were 18 years old registered to vote.
"One of my goals working on this project is to hopefully get more young people interested in the process, because once you get someone inspired and sort of hooked, then you have them for life," said Will Pett, a senior history and political science double major who worked on the project with Urman.
The Media & Debates section of the website has helped students understand the impact and history of the debates, Pett said. On the eve of the final presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, this website section casts a skeptical eye on what people learn from the media. And the Policy & Platforms section helps visitors learn about the candidates' positions.
Multimedia plays a key role on this site, with videos ranging from under 30 seconds to 18 minutes. They include 24 interviews with former Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, U.S. congressional candidate Richard Tisei and numerous advisers and consultants.
"You can't just put a block of text on a website and expect it to get results," Pett said. "Having the multimedia component — allowing people to watch those short YouTube clips while they're procrastinating from their homework — I think really helps."
The students helped brainstorm the content on the site, designed the site sections, wrote much of the content, prepped for interviews and edited videos. The five site sections include an introduction, past practices, current practices, technology, key players, quizzes and lesson plans that address Common Core State Standards.
Whether visitors are college students, K-12 students, professors, teachers or others, the team that put together this site hopes to engage more people in the political process.
"Tuning out is not acceptable," Urman said. "Democracy is not a spectator sport."
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