Home President Elect Obama’s FireWire Chats: Transparency Redefined?

President Elect Obama’s FireWire Chats: Transparency Redefined?

Yesterday, President Elect Obama’s transition team announced the weekly Democratic address will be posted on YouTube. Today we saw the first of these fireside chats go live on the new video wire (video embedded below).

It’s clear that Obama and his team are extremely competent when it comes to the social Web, but it might be useful to examine some of the reasons behind his phenomenal success online, and look at a potential misconception.

The Internet is Now Mainstream

While the Obama campaign is the first to utilize the Internet in such an expert way, it also needs to be pointed out that he is the first president going into office at a time when the Internet and Web are considered mainstream, and the tools for social media are freely available.

In the eight years since President Bush was sworn in, Internet usage has grown by almost 300% to a now staggering 1.46 billion users worldwide, with 73.6 percent penetration in the United States.

Image: Internet World Stats

The Web: What it Can and What it Can’t Do

Certainly, the tools used in this presidential campaign were never an option for earlier presidents as they only came into existence over the past five years; MySpace (2003), YouTube (2004), FaceBook (2004), Twitter (2006).

But by utilizing these tools, it’s almost as if Obama really cares whether the next generation has a connection to what he’s doing, and given officials have said that Obama’s goal in using YouTube is to put a face on the government, it’s clearly a noble intent.

The issue however, is in this statement to the Washington Post by Jen Psaki:

“This is just one of many ways that he will communicate directly with the American people and make the White House and the political process more transparent.”

As pointed out by John Dickerson over at Slate, using new technology is not akin to being more transparent:

“Finding new ways to sell your message is not the same as making yourself more transparent. In fact, obscuring the message with shiny distractions may actually undermine the cause of transparency.”

Obama’s Web omnipresence clearly relies on many tools, and certainly he should continue using them, but equating Web tools with transparency may not be such a great idea this early in the game, particularly with so many scrutinizing his every word.

Earlier this month, TG Daily went through Obama’s recent speeches, and put together a list of their expectations from our tech-savvy president elect. On the flip side, there are those who are concerned that by selecting Joe Biden as a running mate, Obama has selected a politician with a mixed record on technology.

Time will tell, and if nothing else, today’s FireWire chat showed us that Obama has kept to his promise of last year to have the fireside chats on video.

Watch the three and a half minute video below, or read the transcript of the President-elects first address

Thanks Renian for FireWire

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