Daniel Kreiss is an Associate Professor in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kreiss’s research explores the impact of technological change on the public sphere and political practice. In Taking Our Country Back: The Crafting of Networked Politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama (Oxford University Press, 2012), Kreiss presents the history of new media and Democratic Party political campaigning over the last decade. Prototype Politics: Technology-Intensive Campaigning and the Data of Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2016) charts the emergence of a data-driven, personalized, and socially-embedded form of campaigning and explains differences in technological adoption between the two U.S. political parties.
Kreiss is an affiliated fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School and received a Ph.D. in Communication from Stanford University. Kreiss’s work has appeared in the Journal of Communication, New Media and Society, Political Communication, Qualitative Sociology, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Research in Social Movements, Conflict, and Change, The Journal of Information Technology and Politics, and The International Journal of Communication, in addition to other academic journals.
Prior to this academic work, Kreiss worked for a number of political and nonprofit organizations in New York City and San Francisco, and was an active political blogger during and after earning an M.A. in Communication (Journalism) from Stanford University in 2004.
Industry Expertise (6)
Media - Online
Media - Print
Areas of Expertise (16)
Stanford University: Ph.D., Communication 2010
Stanford University: M.A., Communication (Journalism) 2004
Bates College: B.A., Political Science 1999
- Faculty Affiliate UNC Center for Media Law and Policy
- Information Society Project at Yale Law School : Affiliated Fellow
- Adjunct Assistant Professor Department of Communication Studies
Media Appearances (11)
What Twitter's political ban means for campaigns of all sizes
Yahoo! Finance online
Twitter has announced it's banning political ads. Yahoo Finance's Adam Shapiro and Julie Hyman discuss with Daniel Kreiss, Professor at UNC Hussan School of Journalism and Media as well as RSM Chief Economist Joe Brusuelas and Lending Tree Chief Economist Tendayi Kapfidze.
Twitter to ban all political ads amid 2020 election uproar
Washington Post online
Daniel Kreiss, a professor of media and journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, expressed some early concern that Twitter’s decision to ban political ads could spell particular trouble for down-ballot candidates with smaller followings online. Twitter ads, he said, are “one of the ways that candidates get their message in front of a public whose attention is extremely divided and fragmented.”
While Facebook has received much of the criticism for political advertising policies, Twitter also has experienced its share of controversy.
See, Facebook? Twitter Proves You Can Ban Political Ads
While Twitter’s decision may earn it kudos in the midst of the backlash against Facebook, some have described the policy as “extreme,” noting that it may do little to improve civil discourse on the platform in general. Daniel Kreiss, a professor of political communication at the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, says that the advertisements aren’t the problem. Instead, platforms should examine their policies around custom ad targeting, which incentivizes extremist messages.
“The challenge here is that we need to have a system where we recognize the important role that political ads have long played in American political discourse, but to build more friction into the system,” says Kreiss. “We’re stuck between two extremes: We have Facebook saying everything goes, and Twitter saying nothing goes. There’s a sensible position in the middle, which is why not allow paid political ads but get away from hypertargeting?”
To help Trump raise even more millions in 2020, the GOP is copying Democratic fundraising tools
Fast Company print
This points to another cultural difference: economic ethos. While ActBlue emerged as a nonprofit that provided a welcoming infrastructure for all the fragments of the Democratic Party, the Republican startups were for-profits that competed with each other in all-American, capitalistic fashion.
“It’s the free market of ideas, right? There should be competition in this space,” says Daniel Kreiss, an associate professor at UNC who studies digital politics, of the conservative mindset. “It shouldn’t be something that’s driven in a top-down sort of way.”
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The off-the-shelf nature of the technology means it’s cheap to set up, especially for fringe candidates. “It’s fueled a lot of insurgent campaigns,” says Kreiss, mentioning the Sanders campaign in 2016, which are typically “facing a large uphill battle for institutional resources.” There are notable exceptions—President Obama and Secretary Clinton used their own systems for their presidential runs—but in the 2018 midterms, when ActBlue helped raise $1.6 billion for Democrats, voters donated to candidates across the blue spectrum, from centrist Pennsylvania candidate Conor Lamb to New York’s firebrand progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Facebook Curbs Incentives to Sell Political Ads Ahead of 2020 Election
The Wall Street Journal print
"Maximizing revenue may not be the point, said Daniel Kreiss, a University of North Carolina political science professor who wrote critically about the help Facebook, Google and Twitter Inc. gave to presidential candidates in 2016.
“You’re seeing a company saying that the ways they were entwined with the political field was deeply problematic,” he said of Facebook. Eliminating commissions means “fewer incentives for Facebook staff to try to get the most ad spend and engagement, regardless of social costs.”
In a 2017 paper, Mr. Kreiss found that Google, Facebook and Twitter approached 2016 political advertising in roughly the same fashion, with the companies offering equal support to both Democrats and Republicans. The companies viewed the work as both lucrative and politically valuable, he said.
Google and Twitter were also subject to manipulation attempts, but Facebook’s size and questions about misuse of data siphoned from the platform meant it took the brunt of the public backlash."
Digitization, Digitalization, And Digital Transformation: Confuse Them At Your Peril
Digitalization: Fraught with Ambiguity and Confusion
Unlike digitization, digitalization doesn’t have a single, clear definition. “‘Digitization’ and ‘digitalization’ are two conceptual terms that are closely associated and often used interchangeably in a broad range of literature,” explain J. Scott Brennen, Doctoral Candidate in Communication, and Daniel Kreiss, Associate Professor, both at the University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism. “We refer to digitalization as the way in which many domains of social life are restructured around digital communication and media infrastructures.”
Brennen and Kreiss thus base their definition of digitalization on social life – in other words, how people interact. As such interactions move away from analog technologies (snail mail, telephone calls) to digital ones (email, chat, social media), both work and leisure domains become digitalized.
The Supreme Court and Sharia law: How a fake-news story spreads
Whereas the editors at the local newspaper might have selected a story because they thought it provided important information, people share stories on Facebook and Twitter for very different reasons, said Daniel Kreiss, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s school of journalism.
“It’s a much more social than cognitive process,” he said. “People don’t often share the really deeply sourced informational content.”
Political Campaigns Are Wasteful—So Turn Them Into Startups
Professor Kreiss quoted in, “Political Campaigns Are Wasteful – So Turn Them into Startups.” Wired. October 28, 2015.
The GOP Has a Tech Talent Problem It Might Not Solve
Professor Kreiss quoted in, “The GOP Has a Tech Talent Problem It Might Not Solve.” Wired. October 26, 2015.
With '$Cashtags,' Twitter plays greater campaign finance role
Professor Kreiss quoted in, “With ‘$Cashtags,’ Twitter plays greater campaign finance role.” Reuters. September 16, 2015.
Did Social Media Help Swing the Vote?
Wall Street Journal online
Featured in, “Did Social Media Help Swing the Vote?” Wall Street Journal, November 7, 2012.
University of North Carolina professor Daniel Kreiss joins the News Hub to discuss how twitter was used in the campaigns and by voters during what's considered the first 'social election.'
Event Appearances (2)
Citizenship, Engagement & Digital Media
Digital Media and the Future(s) of Democracy: Annual DCC Conference University of Pennsylvania
Media in the Modern Campaign Age
Forkenbrock Series on Public Policy The University of Iowa Public Policy Center
Shannon C. McGregor and Daniel Kreiss
"The White House recently hosted a Social Media Summit, inviting about 200 conservatives and right-wing activists to discuss their allegations that Facebook and Twitter censor their messaging. The summit capped a year of charges by the right that Silicon Valley tech firms have a liberal bias.
But these charges come in the face of considerable evidence that conservative news outlets outperform others on social media. Last week, the charges turned bipartisan. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), a Democratic presidential candidate, filed a $50 million suit against Google, alleging that a temporary account suspension infringed on her free speech.
Why do these censorship charges persist?"
We present the results of a 5-day, observation and interview-based, multi-sited field study of the 2012 Democratic National Convention. We combine literatures on journalistic and political fields with scholarship on performance theory to provide a framework for understanding conventions as contemporary media events. Through analysis of field notes, photographic documentation, and interview data, we detail the layered production of performance in the journalistic and political fields, revealing how performances were directed both internally and across fields for strategic advantage, as well as for co-present spectators and the public at-large. We argue that conventions provide ‘boundary spaces’ where actors from different fields gather and perform distinct democratic roles, as well as mediated, integrative spaces for the polity. Media events provide occasions for networked practices of ‘active spectatorship’ that offer citizens a means of control over the publicity of elites.
Following Francesca Polletta's call to reconsider participatory democracy in a new millennium, this article analyzes and makes a normative case for institutional and partisan forms of participation without decision making. I draw on field research and interviews conducted over the last decade on Democratic Party campaigns to argue against contemporary denunciations of partisanship and critiques of institutional participation by radical democrats. First, this article discusses the opportunities available for citizens to participate in electoral politics. Volunteering is often limited to fund-raising and instrumental voter contacts given the constraints of electoral institutions. Although campaign volunteerism is a fundamentally limited form of civic engagement, institutional and partisan participation has democratic value. Campaigns are institutionally linked to political parties that offer distinct moral, ideological, and policy choices to citizens. Recent analytical and empirical work shows that contemporary political parties are constituted by relatively coherent networks of civil society and social movement organizations that devote considerable resources to electoral politics to shape primary and general election outcomes and advance their agendas in governance. This reveals electoral participation to be tightly linked to larger partisan dynamics and institutional sites of power.
In the last few years, a powerful consensus has emerged among scholars of digitally enabled peer production. In this view, digital technologies and social production processes are driving a dramatic democratization of culture and society. Moreover, leading scholars now suggest that these new, hyper-mediated modes of living and working are specifically challenging the hierarchical structures and concentrated power of bureaucracies. This paper first maps the assumptions underlying the new consensus on peer production so as to reveal the sources of its coherence. It then revisits Max Weber’s account of bureaucracy. With Weber in mind, the paper aims to expose analytical weaknesses in the consensus view and offer a new perspective from which to study contemporary digital media.
Pundits and scholars laud online campaigning for its potential to democratize politics and praise the 2008 Barack Obama campaign for using new information technologies to mobilize voters. Underneath these extraordinary forms of technologically-enabled political participation, however, is an infrastructure and industry for political data that has received far less attention. To help fill this gap in scholarly understanding, we provide an overview of the data practices of political campaigns over the last decade and take a particularly close look at many of the new tools used by the Obama campaign. As a call for further research, we then outline a set of potential normative concerns about this use of data. We suggest that the data practices of campaigns and other political organizations may undermine important democratic norms. Campaigns erode privacy and narrow political debate by using data on citizens and social networks to tailor messages and communicate with narrowly-defined segments of voters. The lack of policy oversight erodes institutional transparency and leaves citizens vulnerable to breeches in personal data.
The 2003–2004 Howard Dean campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is often heralded as the prototypical example of peer-driven politics. Building from an emerging body of literature on the Dean campaign, through interviews with key staffers and a survey of public documents I complicate this view by analyzing the interplay between the formal campaign organization, digital artifacts, and citizen networks. I demonstrate that from the earliest days of the primary the campaign developed strategies and innovative organizational practices for convening and harnessing citizen networks. Drawing on analytical perspectives that combine Foucauldian “governmentality” and actor-network theory, I argue that this was facilitated through the deployment of a set of artifacts that realized and leveraged “networked sociality.” Finally, I argue that while the Internet Division of the campaign adopted many “postbureaucratic” practices, it was embedded in a formal organizational hierarchy that shaped its technical work.