I think I’ve got a new entry on my Christmas present wish list, though the holograms might stay at number one:
At the headquarters of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, there is a big wooden door that goes nowhere and everywhere. Campaign manager Peter Tauber rings the doorbell and a man appears, barking “Who are you? What do you want?” Mr. Tauber calmly ends the conversation and the man disappears. The doorbell is rung again, and where once the angry man was, is now a young person who happily loads up with CDU swag. A third ring reveals a woman eager to talk to the party she supports and, with true German hospitality, invites Mr. Taber in for cake and coffee.
Except Mr. Tauber doesn’t actually get to enjoy the coffee break, but keeps ringing. The people he meets are not real people. In fact, they can’t even open the door for themselves because they are images on a screen behind the door – a simulation for door-to-door training exercises as Mr. Tauber readies his team for the 2017 federal election campaign. The door is in what Mr. Tauber calls the “boiler room” and gives campaigners a chance to practice their door-to-door strategies.
The full piece from Handelsblatt Global is well worth a read for the detail it goes on to cover about how different the use of data is in German elections from those in the UK or, especially, the USA given Germany’s much tighter data protection rules and culture.
It’s another reminder of the point I’ve made before that often people confuse what is currently predicted to happen in the US with the future that technology will bring. There are certainly plausible and disconcerting projections of what the development of data use might bring in the US, but those projections are in large part about America, and not about the technology itself. Countries such as Germany show how there are different futures even with the same technology.
UPDATE: For an excellent discussion on how Germany’s approaches to personal data and political finance make campaigning there different from other countries, take a listen to Data-Driven Political Campaigning in Germany, with Dr. André Haller and Simon Kruschinski.