First Person Projects is designed to understand
the context for, drivers of, and barriers to participation in civic life.
It is a special project of The Difference Engine.

It began with a pair of deceptively simple questions:
Why do people vote? Why don't they?

And that led us to another question:
How do non-voters engage in and with their communities and democracy?
What does it mean to participate in civic life?

This project seeks to answer these questions.


Culture of politicos

Campaigns, pollsters, and journalists create, predict & measure, and chronicle elections, the theater for the one of the most important instances of participation in civic life - voting. How do the incentives, constraints, relationships, and language of these groups influence the way ordinary people perceive democracy and their place within it? How do they inflect our understanding of political parties, political choices, and the value of our vote?


Why coatesville?

The week before the 2016 election, we were in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, canvassing voters. What we found was a small town that defies almost every expectation demographers and pollsters, campaigns and journalists might have for it. As a relatively small township with a diverse population, sitting at a kind of metaphorical and actual crossroads of a swing state, it's the kind of place we can get our arms around to pilot our approach.


the latest developments

We'll chronicle our progress as we investigate the Culture of Politicos and the climate and context of participation in civic life in Coatesville. We'll document what we learn, and what we've learned about our method of understanding. And we'll share our findings, ask for your feedback, and eventually, your help in developing a model that can travel well beyond Coatesville, and foster greater understanding of why people do or do not vote.