Since successfully running a presidential campaign that effectively employed traditional means of communication while taking full advantage of channels presented by social media, it’s no surprise that Barack Obama’s inauguration is going to be the first covered by such a wide range of technologies and that he’s being referred to as our first “wired” president.
From live streaming video (see our embedded Hulu player above and Ustream below), which will be available through a number of websites, to the chatter of thousands of live bloggers and Twitterati, this historic event will, potentially more than any other, illustrate the increasing power and democratizing aspect of citizen journalism. Indeed, some are referring to this unprecedented level of communication as the beginning of the “rebooting of our democracy,” that, given candidate Obama’s willingness to share his message through online media, and to listen to others via the same channels, we’re about to experience more executive transparency than ever before.
Millions are expected to attend the inauguration, and it’s a safe bet to say that, given the ubiquity of cell phones, tens of thousands of those millions will be able to lend their unique perspectives to the international conversation about/celebration of our first African American president.
From the 240,000 official ticket holders (some of whom are shelling out upwards of $10,000 to attend the event) to the millions who are content to be in the presence of Obama via Jumbotron, fellow citizens will be able to comment on everything from Obama’s speech (which, if expectations are met, kids a hundred years from now will be memorizing in order to pass history class) to Michelle’s dress (Jackie Kennedy-ish; no ruffles, no mention of the fact that nobody cares what kind of suit the new president will be wearing) to the traffic (ungodly – a virtual parking lot from the mall to Philadelphia) to the fact that Washington DC isn’t a great place to stand outside all day in the winter (forecast: 30 degrees, winds 10-20 mph, snow flurries).
The inauguration will be available streamed live from a number of sites, including CNN, to iPhone owners via Ustream.tv, and multiple other sites/methods. People are already Twittering. Set yourself Google Blog and News Alerts on “Barack Obama” and I guarantee that you’ll get more information in the next 12 hours than you can read in a month. NPR is hosting live chat with NPR newscasters, live streaming video, posting Twitters, videos, and audio in its inauguration coverage as well.
The question, of course, is how long this transparency will last, and how deeply it will penetrate the oval office. There is information that’s necessarily for a few ears only, that, frankly, I don’t want to know. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace: none of them existed when we elected our last president (who, given the secrecy of his administration, and his folksy lack of any technological prowess, would have been unlikely to use them anyway). There’s no way to tell what we’ll be using in four years. How the new administration balances this openness with executive privilege will be an ongoing story.