Yesterday was the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States. It was momentous, it was fascinating, and it was historical. You don’t have to agree with positions or political parties to recognize those facts. I’m not interested in discussing politics, or affiliations, but I am interested in discussing the uses of New Media and technology in the world of government and politics. It’s no secret that this election cycle saw more use of the Internet and new media for fundraising, campaign ads, and mobilization of grass roots efforts on both sides. I’m curious to see whether this continues. Yesterday was a changing of the guard, and I hope that those changes are toward innovation and communication.
It was also the technological gate being thrown open to the public with the relaunching of the White House’s official site design, including an official Blog and the Briefing Room. The Briefing Room appears to be the collective place for all White House generated New/Social media, including the Blog, videos, press releases, photos, the Weekly Video Address, and even executive orders and proclamations. The site itself seems more logically organized and accessible than it has been in the past, so that’s certainly a step in the right direction.
As the first blog post on the new site, Macon Phillips, Director of New Media for the White House, outlined the intended uses for the site and blog, not least important of which are Communication and Participation. I’m curious to see just how effective this proves to be. Under the heading of “Participation” he states that:
One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.
I am excited about this opportunity, but I invite you to remember that just because comments are welcome and encouraged, it doesn’t mean that they will necessarily be considered. Perhaps that’s left over cynicism, and I hope I’m wrong, because if this administration makes the concerted effort to appeal to people on a personal, connected level and it turns out to be only a facade and lip service, then they have a long, long way to fall already. It’s easy to disappoint the public when your approval ratings are the lowest in history and those numbers don’t necessarily change much, but when you advocate change and hope and involvement and you have the photo negative equivalent in the public approval ratings of your predecessor, you have a lot of room to screw up, and people’s hopes crashing echo louder and longer than any one of those marching bands that participated in yesterday’s parade.
I’m encouraged by the fact that the White House has a Director of New Media. I hope he is able to convey the importance of community and social psychology to those individuals who are manning the various platforms. I hope those individuals in charge listen. I think it’s a sign of times and attitudes changing that Macon Phillips’ position even exists.
I’ve compiled a list of some governmental agencies and individuals you can find on Twitter now, including @thewhitehouse, and how they seem to be engaging the public. Look for that either later today or tomorrow. What do you think about this change? Take a gander at the blog and let me know your thoughts. Will you utilize these new features? What might stop you from participating in that way?