Obama’s ‘fireside chats’ take the high (tech) road in cyberspace

A couple of posts ago, I blogged about Obama’s clever use of new media and how that’s helped him to win the recent US Presidential elections. In fact, he’s come to be known as the Youtube President!

Not surprisingly then, that Obama has chosen to stay on the Youtube course and use it to broadcast his weekly address to the American public (actually, he now has the potential to address an international audience as well). 

Obama is giving what is known as the traditional weekly radio broadcast by US Presidents, a tradition started by Roosevelt, a modern-day twist. Back then, and since then, the ‘fireside chats’ of the various Presidents have been broadcast on radio. Now, with new media, Obama has found an added channel to reach out to the public, especially the younger set that forms the Youtube and Facebook generation.

What’s also interesting is that by going direct to Youtube, the Obama administration has greater control over what is broadcast. According to the Straits Times article on Obama’s online chats, Obama and his people could “would curb the power of a traditional but often unpopular middleman between presidents and the populace: the mainstream media”. This means that the public get a dose of Obama unadulterated and unmediated (as much as non-mediation via media is allowed). Doing this would also make Obama’s government “more transparent“.

Obama’s first Youtube address after he won the elections is available on his website: www.change.gov. Subsequent addresses can also be viewed there.

In fact, this website has proved to be a source of information on Obama and the directions he’s taking as the President-elect.

And with Youtube videos being so embed-able, his address would be seen by so many more, due to the viral nature of ‘marketing’ on new media.

Now, I’ve mentioned previously as well that our local political groups could also learn something from the Obama campaign and its use of new media. Just yesterday, there was news that PAP is aiming to click with the young by letting the IT-savvy watch short videos of PAP MPs at events on its revamped PAP website.

Party chairman Lim Boon Heng said, “New media is facilitating change. Our party is gearing up our resources to harness this new platform.” In fact, on the Young PAP website, there are articles on new media and its social impact

Now, while it’s good and timely for our local political parties to incorporate the use of new media, I believe more must be done than just posting videos of MPs at events. More could be done to harness the power of new media to reach out to the public and allow for the age of participation and a new generation of digital natives. Perhaps the digital natives out there would like to share how better engagement could be achieved via new media.

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Obama and New Media

Obama has won the US Presidential elections, and will be stepping into the White House and Oval Office come January.

Many have seen his success at the elections last week to be very much tied up with his strong presence online, especially with the use of new media. Many have discussed Obama’s Youtube and Facebook win, and how he’s used new media to reach out to the masses, especially the younger voters, and made an emotional connection with them (via technology!). In a post I made months back, his win was already on the cards, given Obama’s Facebook domination!

Many see the Internet as a great equaliser, as anyone can use it, and most of its apps are virtually free (pun intended), and in Obama’s case, it has been an equaliser in his fight for votes.

From being a relative unknown, he’s now catapulted to being one of the most powerful men (if not, potentially, the most powerful man) in the world! For many, that signifies the American dream. That also signifies democracy. Beyond that, that also signifies the power of new media. 

And for the many who were not allowed to vote (apparently, many non-Americans wanted to!), they could get into the action online as well. There were many online polls that allowed participation by all (isn’t that just what Web 2.0 is about – the Age of Participation)! Even WordPress had its own virtual poll. So did Facebook and other online sites! Even my Fluff pet on Facebook could take part in the polls, and be voted for!

Not surprising, Obama won in those polls too, and the online poll figures do closely match the actual results. So, in a way, we can see the online world as a microcosm of the real world.

Singapore’s politicians on Facebook

In earlier posts, I’d talked about how politicians have been jumping on the new media wagon and exploiting it to get a feel of the ground and further their popularity.  For instance, there was a Facebook standoff between Hillary, Obama and McCain some months back.

The politicians in neighbouring Malaysia have also realised the impact of new media, and the ruling party has taken an about turn on its view on new media. From disregarding it, they are now encouraging party members to keep blogs. Of course, by now, everyone has probably heard of and/or read Mahathir’s blog.

In Singapore, our local politicians have also started to use new media to reach out to the public. First there was George Yeo who was the face of PAP’s new media user, who blogged about his experiences. Now, more and more of the PAP’s members have started to adopt new media as part of their communications strategy. Teo Ser Luck is on Facebook and Vivian Balakhrishnan keeps his own blog.

According to the Today article, PAP MP Lam Pin Min (Ang Mio Kio GRC) said that, “The power of the Internet as a political tool must not be underestimated as demonstrated by the experience of the recent elections in our neighbouring countries. The party understands this and takes the feedback from netizens very seriously.”

Of course, new media shouldn’t just be used for the sake of using it. To be meaningful, it should serve as a platform for open discussion and feedback, and not a channel for propaganda.

Well, do share your thoughts about what you hope to see being used and done in new media by our local politicians.

Costly mistake by Malaysian PM for ignoring the Internet and bloggers

Malaysian PM Abdullah Badawi admitted that he underestimated the power of the Internet in garnering political support, in the follow-up to the biggest loss of political power for the ruling party of Malaysia. He felt that this was a costly mistake and that his party had lost the Internet war.

Due to being ignored by mainstream media, the opposition parties took their campaigning online through blogs and websites.

The recent elections in Malaysia show how the Internet could be galvanised as a political tool. “The Internet definitely played a role in getting young people to vote,” said 25-year-old Michelle Gunaselan, a founding member of online electoral education group VotED. Many young people are now generally more hopeful about their political future, and more interested in the politics of the land, given the Internet’s ability to engage them.

The ruling party is now more open to bloggers and also using new media to reach out to the masses. However, some of the opposition members are not convinced and remain sceptical. It remains to be seen how the ruling party will use the Internet and other online means to win back the political war.

Hm…do you think Singaporeans will take to the Internet for political issues, like the Malaysians?