Thursday, January 21, 2010

Junket Central

Geert Lovink points out yet another horrible "Government 2.0" conference designed to propagate public relations rather than reexamine the relationship between direct and representative government in the Internet era: Social Media for Government. With the inauguration of Obama, these pitches aimed at government contractors willing to pay high-priced registrations for cheerleading sessions seem to be proliferating with little imput from academics, activists, or other potential critics.

One can attend "Maximizing Your Communication Efforts By Integrating Social Media (Blogging, Podcasting & Other New Media) With Traditional Channels," which continues the command-and-control model of the Internet with a presentation by the Department of Defense's Jack Holt of DoD Live to answer self-aggrandizing questions like "Did you know that the top government and organization podcasts downloaded from iTunes are from DoD?" and "Did you know that when you talk to one blogger, you are potentially talking to 2 million virally-linked people per blogger?"

Or one can sit in on "Web 2.0 Tools for Internal Information-Sharing and Knowledge Mangagement" from the State Department's Powell-era Office of eDiplomacy, which administers Diplopedia, their internal wiki.

Or one can check out the PowerPoint slides at "Balancing Security With Information Demand While Participating In The World Of New Media" from "the world's dominant Air, Space and Cyberspace force," the U.S. Air Force (USAF)." I particularly like their order of social actors to consider: "Airmen, stakeholders, the media and insurgent adversaries." Notice how "the media" is put next to "insurgent adversaries" in the discursive logic of the "message control" of Captain David Faggard.

Jeremy Ames of the Environmental Protection agency boasts in "Reaching A New Demographic Through The Use Of Social Media – On A Shoestring Budget" that their federal agency has embraced a viral marketing technique "common in the private sector" by sponsoring a YouTube contest. ( Although they claim "this was the first such contest done by a federal agency," a government-sponsored YouTube contest for making a video about flu prevention may have been the first.)

The program piloted the Radon Video Contest using the popular video sharing site Rather then developing new messaging for YouTube, users were asked to create their own 30-60 second radon PSAs based on general guidelines. The winners received a $2500 prize and the change to have their video shown on EPA's website. Over 30 entries were received, which have been collectively viewed by over 8,000 YouTube visitors.

There is more thinking from a "power law" perspective about the web to be had in "How To Maximize Your Mission's Mandate By Using The Latest Social Media" from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which has launched a variety of "science-based, attention-grabbing initiatives to dialogue with youth" that feature videos, games, and Flash animation. The speaker points to NIDA for Teens and their "d'cisions webisodes" as exemplary content. My problem with the site, a screenshot of which can be seen above, is that it differs little from a site for young children, with its emphasis on brain teasers and comic book stories. Even after drilling down into the site in search of the research resources that might make it appealing to high school students working on school reports, I was disappointed to only see simple NIDA and NIH pamphlets that lack the kind of scientific studies that the college preparatory audience would need.

Along with spokespeople from nearby local governments like Washington D.C. and Virginia Beach, there are also many representatives from for-profit companies like iStrategyLabs and IQ Solutions who seem to be well positioned at the conference to make the pitch for capitalizing on policy maker's current love for proprietary technologies and easy black boxed solutions.

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