Saturday, May 16, 2009

Information Overload

Every few days, it seems that the White House offers up a new website on a .gov domain. Now the abstract nouns of,, and have been followed up with the verb represented by to commemorate the signing of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, "a bold expansion of opportunities for all Americans to serve their communities and our country."

In addition to these relatively elegant names, there are also compound nouns represented in these new .gov domains:,,,, and

Of course, not all of these non-institutional sites are creations of the Obama administration, since dates back to 2002 and is a product of 2007.

But I am seriously concerned about how sustainable this proliferation of URLs really is, how easy it will be to catalog all of them from single directories, and how webmasters will be coordinated with so many web initiatives that are constituted as separate from specific government agencies.

I also worry that this does not do much to teach citizens how to access services by knowing where the actual organs of power lie in specific institutional sites in which records are archived and government media-making takes place as part of policy.

I have faith that the Obama administration can be about information and not just about message, but I want to see signs that navigation and good web design will be part of the communication strategy, so that constituents can explore sites more deeply, access data sets with meaningful information representation, and understand their role in the polis in the Internet age in ways that get beyond buzzwords and single issues.

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