For Abraham Lincoln, it was the telegraph. For John F. Kennedy it was the television. For Barak Obama, it is Web 2.0.
Each of these politicians proved adept at adapting new technologies to communicate. Lincoln took to the telegraph and used it for rapid communication. No doubt the advantages of the telegraph were on Lincoln’s mind when we composed the short and compact Gettysburg address. Unlike keynote speaker, Edward Everett’s 13,600-word, two-hour oration, Lincoln’s ten sentence and 272-word address fit neatly on the front pages of newspapers across Europe.
In the famous Richard Nixon-Kennedy television debates, the youthful Kennedy performed well on television. Nixon, ill at the time, looked ill on television. Kennedy knew television favored him and took advantage of it. Those who watched the debates felt Kennedy was the winner.
By putting into service blogs, YouTube, constant email communication and networks of Internet-connected supporters, Obama and his team exploited the long tail of presidential campaigning and fundraising. The telegraph let Lincoln communicate quickly with anyone else with a telegraph. Television let Kennedy communicate more completely with the masses watching the gate-keeping news media. Web 2.0 let Obama communicate both quickly and completely with anyone direct and unedited.
Obama has made the presidential candidate a direct-to-supporter product. This has interesting implications going forward. Will Obama make himself the first direct-to-citizen president?
While he has created Change.gov to communicate with those interested in he transition, I will watch carefully to see if he will expand his large database of email addresses and his enhance his ready-to-go Internet networking machine to manage communications with American citizens himself. Will he still be able to out-communicate the mainstream media and opposition blogs?
Will the Obama presidency be a Web 2.0 presidency?
Wow. Think about it. Probably the nation’s most powerful person and commander-in-chief of the world’s greatest military force, at the center of so much that affects us all, with his finger on the trigger of a massive Web 2.0 gun.
What will the Web 2.0 edgelings say about that?
We can say that Web 2.0 is truly participatory because Obama has been able to use it to engage and empower the edgelings into action. That’s a good way to look at it. On the other hand, let’s watch and see how Obama actually combines the power of his office and Web 2.0 approaches to interact with us citizen edgelings.
Regardless of your perspectives on politics, as technologists, one thing seems clear. In the case of this election, good use of information technology contributed mightily to competitive advantage.
I guess that ought to be the top job responsibility for the nation’s first CTO (who Obama will appoint): contribute to the nation’s competitive advantage.
Edgelings: get ready! Our time is at hand!