Sunday, March 01, 2009

State of the Art State Department

The State Department has now launched an Interactive Travel Map, where visitors to the site can play "Where in the World is Hillary Clinton?" and keep track of her miles logged in the name of improved international relations for the Obama administration. For example, this image catches her en route during a trip to the Middle East and Europe with a number of stops linked to video and other hyperlinked content if the viewer zooms in.

Of course, this is also yet another example of the "Googlization of government" that Siva Vaidhyanathan has noted, since the map is generated by the software giant, although Mountain View, California doesn't appear on its visualization of landmarks.

The month of February also ended with the agency's previous social media czar, Sean McCormack, signing off on Dipnote, the official blog for the diplomatic corps. Virtualpolitik readers may recall his Briefing 2.0 debacle during the Bush administration, which earned him a Foley award for bad e-government in 2008. In his official online farewell, McCormack also takes credit for a number of Internet innovations in public diplomacy.

I wrote the first post for DipNote, but I am pleased that the one today will not be the last to appear on this blog. You have let us into your lives, as we sought to let you into our lives at the State Department. Together we have created a space where our government and publics around the globe can have a conversation, a condition made inevitable by technology but also desirable because of the way we have chosen to be governed.

There is a lot the digital media team accomplished in the years I headed the Bureau of Public Affairs, and there was more that we had planned but just could not get to either because of time or resource realities. The good news is that as I leave the State Department a great team of career professionals will be able to complete projects on the drawing board and will work on others none of us have yet imagined. That is as it should be and in keeping with the spirit of innovation and creativity by so many digital media efforts.

Now he says he is ready to "transition from helping guide DipNote and our other digital media efforts (as well as on occasion providing content) to being a reader, user, and commenter." To be fair to McCormack, during his reign the blog seemed to allow for more critical comments about U.S. policy in keeping with their stated procedures for soliciting public input. Although a recent visit to the Middle East has fostered over a hundred comments, many of them critical, during Clinton's visit to China a disproportionate number of laudatory comments seemed to be posted about what a "treat" it was to be informed about the behind-the-scenes activities of the "lucky" Secretary in exotic places or "bravo" messages about how "fabulous" and "cool" their work was in the region.

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