Despite Obama’s denials, new media a power for positive change

Discussion in 'Asia' started by ant, Nov 22, 2009.

  1. ant

    ant BANNED

    Nov 22, 2009
    Thanks Received:
    Trophy Points:
    While the world is convinced that Barack Obama, the US’ liberal, Democratic president, is a tech-savvy politician who availed himself successfully of new technology like Facebook and Twitter in the 2008 election, it was really shocking to hear him say “I have never used Twitter” during his town hall speech in Shanghai on Sunday.

    Answering a question from a netizen about free use of web 2.0-based new media such as Twitter in China, a country with 350 million Internet users and 60 million bloggers, Obama gave a very brief answer that he had never used Twitter himself because, “My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.” Right after his remarks a tweeter pointed out on Twitter that since a cell phone is not the only tool used to log on to Twitter and to tweet, as long as there is a laptop by your side, to tweet is not a demanding task for your fingers.

    Then the remark — “I have never used Twitter” — immediately climbed to the fourth most-popular key word on Twitter after Obama’s speech.

    “Shocker: Obama has never used Twitter. So I’ve been following who since 2008?” asked one Tweeter. Some users even posed questions about the authenticity of the updates on the president’s Twitter page, which they doubted came from the “Obama team” instead of him.

    The point is not the so-called “clumsy thumbs” preventing Obama from using Twitter, or the broken hearts of 2.67 million Obama followers on Twitter, but what lies behind the seemingly estranged relationship between people in power and Twitter, which refracts the art of incorporating new technology into society, a process of adaptation and fine-tuning, of rediscovery and redefinition.

    This art made its first appearance in the presidential election last year, when new media, like Twitter and Facebook, became an auxiliary tool for Obama to advocate his ideas, to raise funds, and to keep in touch with his volunteers all over the country. In this campaign, in addition to his success, he also made history by sending short messages to as many as 3 million followers on Twitter to announce his victory.

    Following Obama’s landslide victory in the election, the White House couldn’t wait to jump onto the bandwagon of new media. On May 1, the White House launched its Twitter account, and the other 29 governmental agencies also joined in the trend. Though it has been reported by The New York Times that after taking the oath, confined by federal restrictions on presidential communications, Obama stopped using Twitter, it still could function as lubrication for a transparent system, which is the commitment of the Obama administration.

    After becoming the new favorite among government officials, social network sites received a blow from Obama, who warned young people of the possibility that the content they post on social network sites could be checked by companies when recruiting employees. The cautious attitude towards those websites is no less frustrating than a setback to the liberal spirit of social network sites.

    Then, on Obama’s maiden visit to China, Twitter, again, tops the political agenda.

    Four days before his arrival, officials from the US embassy in China met with Chinese bloggers to get more information about interesting topics concerning Obama’s China visit. Officials then decided to use Twitter and Facebook to hold a live broadcast of the town hall meeting between Obama and students in Shanghai. One official mentioned the reason was that Twitter and Facebook could get access to as many Chinese netizens as possible who have found their way of getting around the “Great Firewall,” and fitted the intention of the president to communicate directly with the Chinese people.

    Whether Obama has achieved his purpose of using Twitter this time is still unknown, but as a symbol of freedom of speech, the topic of Twitter was employed successfully by Obama in expounding his stance on unrestricted internet use, “The more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes.” With these words, he dexterously directed the discussion to his support for non-censorship, which he admitted was a tradition in America, benefiting the whole society, and the people in power as well.

    From the close and cordial relationship in the general election, to the warning against thoughtless use of social network sites; from the eulogy for the merits of Twitter in connecting young people, to the clear statement that “I’ve never used Twitter” when communicating with young people, Obama has incrementally adopted a more rational and comprehensive view towards new media under the ever changing situation both in the political and social spheres. Behind the volatile role played by Twitter in society, is an invisible hand adjusting it to the changing situation. Though the heat wave of new media is irresistible, the invisible hand -- a calm and rational thought -- should not be absent.

Share This Page