Has The Web Redefined the Presidency?
April Mohr Harding, Former Viget
Well, of course it has. It's been pretty well-documented that the web changed the presidential election, and that the current administration plans to take that information revolution a step further by increasing transparency in the federal government.
But, there's also been a lot said about the President's "overexposure" in the media these days. That's where we are finding a third frontier of this new political era -- not only have elections and government communications been redefined, our expectations for the President's availability to the press are also shifting.
President Obama has been on my screen (television, computer, iPhone ... pick one) a lot lately. He's on Jay Leno having a few laughs, he's filling out March Madness brackets on ESPN, he's posting those weekly video addresses to his web site in case I want to check in on him, and he's holding press conferences to talk about economic recovery. And, when he's not talking, everybody else is talking about him. Television, radio, blogs -- everybody's analyzing the President's every move.
What's surprising to me is not that this intense media scrutiny is happening, but that it's been noteworthy. In a world where my public persona is an amalgamation of Facebook photos, blog posts, and passing mentions on web sites outside my control, it feels to me like we're all a bit overexposed. As the notion of privacy gives way to the inevitability of omnipresent information, I would expect a figure as high-profile as the President of the U.S. to be subject to the slings and arrows of the internet at least as much as a private citizen. And, I think that's great.
It's great because our paparazzi-like attention to the President's comings and goings means we're engaged in the political process. In the olden days of traditional media, Americans had to make an effort to know what was going on in the world of politics. No longer. Now, we just can't help it. Sure, we're limping through a major recession that has everyone waiting with bated breath for a glimmer of hope in the news, and that means more people are paying attention than ever before. But, for those who aren't, the information still trickles down because it's coming at us from every channel.
Whether you agree with the President's politics or not, it's pretty hard to argue with the fact that understanding what's happening in your government is a good thing. So, yes, the web has redefined the Presidency by making governance readily accessible to the public whether we like it or not. So, now the question is: Do we like it? Or not?