Technology pervades every aspect of modern life. It has an impact on the democratic life of a nation (Chen, Gibson, & Geiselhart, 2006) and is frequently an object of dispute and negotiation, affecting the way politics is done, by shaping new forms of planning and performing political actions. The changing of professional politics is fuelled up by the increasing use of information and communication technologies by both citizens and organizations. Attempts to increase the use of technology to run elections (Hawthorn & Simons, 2006) are just one aspect of this movement. Many researchers also identify a steady pace of change on the nature of political parties and the ways politics is performed by politicians: Margetts (2001) notices the emergence of cyber parties, characterized by technologically-aided relationships between party and voters rather then formal membership. Pedersen and Saglie (2005) present a survey discussing how this and other kinds of party organizations (e.g. media and networked parties) affect traditional Scandinavian parties. Information systems are themselves instruments of power in several ways. As an example, Hayes and Walsham (1999) discuss the political use of information stored in shared databases. Their study shows how databases storing contact and activity information were used by employees and managers to foster they careers, impose their views and control people subordinated to them. Applications used in or related to politics are information intensive, making databases a prime element in building politically oriented applications. This article discusses some aspects of database related technology necessary for this kind of application.
Background: Politically Oriented Databases
The politically oriented use of databases can be viewed under three main areas:
Research on politics. Databases used for political science research contain data on a diverse range of social, economical and political aspects of countries and regions. They are called political databases.
Professional politics. This area comprises the party databases, containing data necessary for running political parties, and the government databases, including the electoral databases as well as regulatory and other kind of databases used by parliament, congress, etc. From the government area, this article discusses the electoral databases containing data necessary to run and control elections.
Corporate politics. This area comprises almost every information system, although very few of them explicitly incorporate political aspects in their design.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Party Database: Database containing data used to run party’s business
Voter Registration Database: A kind of electoral database used primarily to control and conduct elections.
Political Database: A database containing data useful for political research.
Cyber Party: A political party whose relations to their supporters and voters are technologically mediated, instead of being based on membership.
Electoral Database: A database used to support election systems, storing information on electoral sections, candidates, voters, etc.
Metadata: Data about data, containing semantic information describing its source, structure and interpretation.
Federated Database System: A collection of cooperating but autonomous component database systems.