These collections of mini-blog posts — “hot spots” — are organized around themes that cut across the diverse interests of participants in our research group. They’re about the things we love to talk about. And, like our in-person conversations, they play with ideas at the intersection of participatory culture, civic engagement, and new media. Our rules for the hotspot are these: No one gets to spend a million hours wordsmithing — these are idea starters, not finishers — and posts shouldn’t be a whole lot longer than five hundred words.
Election Season Revisited (Inauguration Edition!)
Live-Tweeting Laffs During the 2012 Debates
On the Separation of Cable and State
Obama’s Back Problems
Where Voting Fits In for the “Self-Expressive Citizen”
Crowns and Badges
I spent the bulk of Monday tuning in to President Obama’s inauguration and the coverage around it. I admit, no matter who is being sworn in, I’m a sucker for the pageantry, the tradition, and the ceremony of the inauguration. I love seeing the National Mall brimming with enthusiastic, if freezing, faces and studying the interactions of the political rivals, celebrities, and past presidents assembled on the stage. On that day, the campaign season that got President Obama here seemed but a distant memory, the blood, sweat and tears of staffers and volunteers receding into footnotes as the President took his oath over not one, but two historic bibles.
But as President Obama gets back to work, Michelle Obama ships her ruby red inaugural gown off to the National Archives, and the blogosphere descends into a tedious debate over Beyonce’s lip-syncing, the excitement of the inauguration fades. The significance of President Obama’s achievement, however, does not. That’s why, for our second Civic Paths hotspot*, we’ve decided to return our focus to election season and to the range of people and stories that made it such an interesting one.
Kevin  and Sam  consider the relationship between politics and entertainment during election season, while Raffi  dissects some of President Obama’s more perplexing campaign slogans. Neta  seeks to understand how the traditional civic act of voting is tied to more self-expressive acts of engagement. Kjerstin  also looks at voters, documenting the infectious joy behind many of the tweets of #firsttimevoters, while I  examine a group of young non-voters and some of their favorite memes. Lastly, Ben  brings us back to where we started—the inauguration—with his account of the symbols and spectacle surrounding it.
We hope these posts will bring some of the more compelling stories from election season back into relief. We also hope this hotspot inspires others to bring their own stories into the conversation because so much has yet to be explored from the 2012 Presidential election and the sometimes wild and woolly days that preceded it.
— Liana Gamber Thompson
*For more on the hotspot philosophy, see our first hotspot on DIY culture.
 — Kevin Driscoll, Live-Tweeting Laffs During the 2012 Debates
 — Sam Close, On the Separation of Cable and State
 — Raffi Sarkissian, Obama’s Back Problems
 — Neta Kligler-Vilenchik, Where Voting Fits In for the “Self-Expressive Citizen”
 — Kjerstin Thorson, #firsttimevoters
 — Liana Gamber Thompson, Nobody 2012
 — Ben Stokes, Crowns and Badges