Thursday, May 21, 2009

Facts at Your Fingertips

Macon Phillips may be proudly heading up the new media efforts at in good faith, but I would still like to see more mastery of institutional rhetoric from the online incarnations of the Obama administration that often gyrate between slick public relations copy and inane first-person folksiness, as in the case of a recent blog posting by Bev Godwin.

Did you know your government may be cooler and more approachable than you think? It really is. I know. I work here.

Answering President Obama’s call for engagement with the public, federal agencies continue to expand their online presence. As Macon Phillips, Director of New Media @ The White House says in this video "Your government is delivering online content in new ways and new venues as technology impacts how and where people consume content."

In the video below Godwin presents a catalog of new media venues, some of which -- like the blogs of the TSA and the State Department, TroopTube, and the Flickr photostream at the Library of Congress -- actually date back to the Bush administration. In the video the fact that so much of this content from the public record is being housed on a single commercial site, YouTube, seems to merit no comment, despite the concerns raised by Siva Vaidhyanathan about what he calls the "Googlization of government" or those aired by Christopher Soghoian about privacy. Because of its constraining architecture and interface, the choice of YouTube can also stifle public participation, as Alexandra Juhasz and I have noted in our work with the Video Vortex project.

Thankfully, the information in the video is largely replicated in text form as a bulleted list of links.

Here’s a sampling from the video of what’s been happening. Keep your eye – and mouses -- out for lots more.
My concern is that the Obama administration guidelines for transparency and open government, which emphasize the idea that government should be "transparent," "participatory," and "collaborative" are very different from the corporate speak about "consuming content" and "delivering content" that the new media arm has embraced.

In the video below Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra explains the function of at the Open Government Innovations Gallery, which promises to provide even more traffic and advertising to YouTube. I also fear that and continue a pattern in domain naming about which I expressed concern in a VP posting on information overload when websites are not tied to abstract concepts rather than specific government agencies.

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