How Obama could set the stage for Participatory Governance

UB Students watching inauguration
UB Students watching inaugurationUB Students watching inauguration
UB students watching the inauguration at the Capen Undergraduate Library

While the world watches the inauguration of our 44th U.S. president, Barack Obama, those of us fortunate enough to have Internet access were able to express our thoughts alongside numerous live video streams including CNN.com, UStream.tv, Hulu and Joost.

Of particular note was the CNN/Facebook collaboration on their own shared viewing experience. Since both CNN and Facebook were relatively more mainstream than say twitter, more viewers were ready to participate.

CNN.com Live - Facebook
Watch video sample taken by Dusenyao

According to Mashable, CNN served 13.9 million live video streams globally since 6am. More than 200,000 status updates were made at a rate of 3,000 users per minute, through the Facebook integration on CNN.com. Meanwhile, Twitter sees 4 times no. of tweets per minute over the course of the inauguration, peaking when Obama was sworn in as 44th President.

But it doesn’t end there. On a more intense level, we’re seeing a lot more involvement from the citizen journalism perspective, at times such coverage is given equal representation alongside mainstream production. Bottom-up, Qik.com coordinated a special Inauguration 2009 page which aggregated about 122 live videos from around 35 mobile producers today. Top-down, we see how CNN has the “Your View of History” map showing both iReporters and CNN coverage around DC:

CNN.com - Your View of History

From the era of participatory media (i.e. blogs, twitter), have we been primed to take on the more focused task of nation building through participatory governance?

The practice of crowdsourcing has been transitioning from one industry to another. Major corporations such as Dell and Starbucks have been turning to consumers for new ideas. News media agencies such as CNN and Fox News have been soliciting unique coverage from citizen reporters.

Now, virtually moving presence from Change.gov to Whitehouse.gov, the Obama transition team has been setting the pace for citizen participation on government ideas and policies. The most obvious improvement is accessibility for the new White House web site, which is 100% HTML/CSS valid (hat tip Vantan), and now features an official blog with RSS feed which you can easily subscribe to:

The White House Blog
Here’s a before and after screenshot of the Whitehouse.gov web site

While it remains to be seen how citizen participation could be ideally solicited, another front would be to allow open access to government data which could in turn be made more useful by talented individuals among us, as seen in the BART poster I saw in San Francisco:

Build your own BART apps
BART.gov Developer Tools

Barrack Obama, from the elections all the way to his presidency, has been the most connected president to date. As a reminder, his promise on the issue of technology includes 1) Protecting the openness of the internet, 2) Deploying a modern communications infrastructure (reducing digital divide), 3) Improve America’s competitiveness (investing in scientific innovations).

Eh Sai! I’m personally enthusiastic at how America turns out from our era of networked democracy, since this would set the stage for other nations (such as Singapore) to follow. Congratulations America, the world is watching and learning! For fellow Americans, ReadWriteWeb has seven tips to help Obama restore America.

UPDATE 1: CNN is soliciting for photographs of the inauguration to piece together a Photosynth called “The Moment“. FYI, Photosynth is a Microsoft technology that creates 3D spaces from anyone’s 2D photos, giving you the near ability to experience slice of time as if you’re actually there.

UPDATE 2: Megan Taylor of MediaShift has written a more comprehensive piece, “Innovation in Inauguration Coverage

UPDATE 3: Lance Miller wrote about the “pluggable government” and notes how citizens learn to wrangle. By wrangle, he mentions Bruce Sterling’s vision: “Wranglers are the class of people willing to hassle with Spimes. And it is a hassle. An enormous hassle. But its a fruitful hassle. It is the work of progress. Handled correctly, it can undo the harm of the past and enhance what is to come.” — When Blobjects Rule the Earth/SIGGRAPH, Los Angeles, August 2004