Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Embrace The Use Of New Media Tools

On Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 at 12:01 pm if you liked then you could read a blog post that begin as follows:

'Welcome to the new I'm Macon Phillips, the Director of New Media for the White House and one of the people who will be contributing to the blog.'

When the clock struck Noon, the entire site changed, a bold reminder that Barack Obama is the first President of the internet social networking age. Obama is President today because of his ability to harness the power of these 'new media' tools that we all have at our disposal. Over the weekend, I saw Nixon/Frost. There is a scene in that movie in which Nixon recounts to Frost how JFK beat him in 1960 with a better command of the new media of that time: television. Similarly, Obama first beat Hilary Clinton and then John McCain with his better command of the new media of this time: the internet. It will be interesting to see how these tools that worked so well for campaigning will be used to help govern.

While so much attention is given to the historic significance of Obama being the first African American President, the greater significance may be that of the passing of the reigns of power to a younger generation. That being a generation that is increasingly more comfortable with this new media. While born in a year that qualifies him as the third baby boomer president, Obama is fifteen years younger than both George W Bush and Bill Clinton. While that fifteen years may represent a huge gap, it is widened even more by the youthful digital natives like Macon Phillips, that Obama relies on to operate the tools of the new media.

Keven Kelley wrote that the symbol for the 21st Century is the internet. He continued, "The net has no center, no orbits, no certainty. It is an indefinite web of causes. The net is the archetype displayed to represent all circuits, all intelligence, all interdependence, all things economic, social, or ecological, all communications, all democracy, all families, all large systems, almost all that we find interesting and important. Whereas the atom (20th Century symbol) represents clean simplicity, the net channels messy complexity."

Obama's ability to navigate this 'messy complexity' is what makes him a transformative figure in American politics. Obama won a long, expensive and brutal campaign. His edge was the ability of his team to use these tools of the new media to his benefit. As with prior campaigns, this recent election offers itself as a case study of sorts with many lessons to be learned and applied. It is a case study that most of us have already put in the time to become familiar with the details. A little more time of reflection and discussion may lead to valuable lessons for the campaigns of our organizations. Questions abound about how we individually and organizationally transform with regard to this new media. Now is the best time available to ask how you can better take advantage of these new media tools.

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