Category: The 2008 Election

The Inauguration Will Be Televised…And Facebooked, and Twittered, and Texted

By Melissa Lafsky | January 20, 2009 12:11 pm

In a little under a half hour, Barack Obama will officially take his place as the country’s next POTUS. And while the event will be brimming with historic firsts for the country, the coverage contains plenty of firsts for the integration of technology, politics, and major events.

Sure, there’ll be some people who actually attend the event in person—around 2 million brave souls have packed into the Mall in frigid temperatures, with questionable bathroom status (for comparison, around 400,000 showed up for Bush’s first inauguration). But for the rest of the world that didn’t make it to D.C. for the party, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of real-time coverage and information all over the airwaves. For those who still watch TV, you can see Obama take the reins on any cable or broadcast news station, or watch live feeds online from CNN, MSNBC, and just about every other news source. Then there are the liveblogs and Twitters, ot to mention Facebook statuses which, according to CNN (which has partnered with Facebook to offer simultaneous Web viewing and status-updating), are being updated at around 2,000 updates per minute, and 3,000 comments per minute. Not to mention the conversation rampaging among the 4 million fans on Obama’s official Facebook page.

Text messaging the event is rampant as well, to the point where the CEO of Shane Neman issued a press release saying he believes millions of text messages will be lost, on the level of New Year’s Eve.

So there you have it—500 different ways to find out what’s going on in D.C. And if you miss all of it, not to worry—the replays will show up on YouTube momentarily.

MORE ABOUT: obama, technology

Weekly News Roundup: Birds and a Plane

By Melissa Lafsky | January 16, 2009 2:32 pm

• The science of birds taking down a commercial plane—and how the danger could apply to NASA as well.

• “Scientific and legal integrity” to return to the EPA. And not a moment too soon.

• A ruckus brews over cookies at the White House—and we don’t mean the kind with sugar and sprinkles.

• Facebook graduates from a civil litigation tool to a crime-fighting tool.

• Recession? What recession? Pass the console.

• And not to spoil the pre-inaugural lovefest with bad news or anything, but that little salmonella outbreak has caused 2 more deaths, bringing the total to 5 dead and over 400 sickened.

MORE ABOUT: facebook, obama, technology

Weekly News Roundup: Here's Your Proof of Evolution

By Melissa Lafsky | January 9, 2009 1:19 pm

• Happy Friday! Half the world’s population could face a global-warming-induced food crisis by 2100, according to a new study.

• And then there’s the floods

• Need proof that evolution’s more than just a “theory”? Look no further.

• The fruit flies are back! And this time, it’s not just Palin dissing them.

• “Dear Obama: Please bring me cap and trade legislation this year.” A wish list from environmentalists.

• The U.S. isn’t the only tech sector getting slammed by the downturn.

• And now for a lesson in brutal honesty: How much does racism really bother you?

New Chief Technology Officer Points to a Tech-Friendly White House

By Melissa Lafsky | January 8, 2009 6:48 pm

The tech world is literally (and virtually) beside itself over Obama’s announcement that he plans to appoint the first ever chief technology officer to oversee the full-fledged technologization (not actually a word, but it should be) of his administration. Today, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and entrepreneur Andrea Weckerle took to CNN to extol the president-elect’s decision and offer their advice for the fledgling CTO. Among their more interesting suggestions:

Ruthlessly modernize: Examine the technology used within the federal system and determine what is outdated, redundant and inadequate, then keep what works and expel what doesn’t. Examine procurement polices and demand they are in line with best practices. The results of this endeavor alone will save the federal government massive amounts of money…

Create openness of information: This will serve two important functions, namely allowing people to see what the government is doing, thus fostering accountability born of transparency, and also providing access to data that will inevitably inspire and support innovation and collaboration within the private sector. In this realm, the old adage from the free software movement of “release early, release often” is quite helpful…

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Weekly News Roundup: 'Twas the Night Before Jan. 20

By Melissa Lafsky | December 19, 2008 2:46 pm

• Where have we seen this before? A President’s Guide to Science, in video form.

• A holy union of incentives and science: A car key that disables cell phones when the car is in use.

• Will the hordes of laid-off techies be driven to crime?

• All this carbon offsetting and greening is nice and all, but the elephant in the room is still coal.

• Any chemists want to weigh in on what type of drugs can be manufactured at home?

• When Madoff strikes, no sustainable food business is safe.

• And finally, the perfect Christmas medley: electronics meets art meets taut consumerist criticism.

MORE ABOUT: crime, drugs, greed, technology

And Obama's Science Adviser Is…John Holdren

By Melissa Lafsky | December 18, 2008 2:36 pm

John HoldrenPhysicists, rejoice! (Even more!)

Science magazine is reporting that Obama has chosen to nominate physicist John Holdren as his science adviser. The well-credentialed and -bearded Holdren is currently a professor of environmental policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, as well as the director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. A top adviser to Obama’s campaign and world renowned expert on climate change, energy policy, and nuclear proliferation, Holdren is the second physicist to join the president-elect’s team, following Nobel Laureate Stephen Chu’s appointment as Secretary of Energy.

Cosmic Variance: Steven Chu Nominated to be Secretary of Energy

Image: AAAS

Power May Not Corrupt Politicians After All

By Melissa Lafsky | December 8, 2008 6:35 pm

With the beatific cloud surrounding Obama’s win rapidly fading, one question finding its way into the public ear is whether or not the president-elect’s newly-won power might/could/will degrade the integrity he’s shown throughout his career. The idea certainly has precedent, with big names like Duke Cunningham and Ted Stevens offering textbook cases of Washington insiders squeezing every last drop of abuse from their power.

But does power really lead to a change in personal perspective and morality? Not necessarily, according to a study in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The researchers, led by Adam Galinsky of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, found that “power tends to shield people from outside opinions, leaving them to rely more on their own insights”—which, when the leader is legitimately insightful, is a positive result.

The team based its findings on college students who’d been primed to feel either powerful or powerless, through techniques like completing sentences that included “power” words, such as “authority,” “executive” and “control,” or words unrelated to power, such as “automobile” and “envelope.” Each group was then given creative tasks, such as coming up with product names or drawing hypothetical aliens. In most cases, participants were shown examples beforehand. Those who had been “primed for power” presented “more unique ideas that bore no resemblance to examples given.”

All of which is well and good. But does it translate to presidential politics?

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MORE ABOUT: corruption, obama, politics

Coming Soon: The President's Weekly YouTube Address

By Melissa Lafsky | November 17, 2008 6:33 pm

How does President-Elect Obama love technology? Let us count the ways. Among the features the incoming administration is adding to its much-anticipated technology ramp-up is a video version of the weekly Democratic address. From now on, the president-elect will record the address on video, then his staff will upload it to none other than YouTube, as well as Obama’s Web site (for the first video, go here).

And fear not, technophiles—there’s more. From the Washington Post:

In addition to regularly videotaping the radio address, officials at the transition office say the Obama White House will also conduct online Q&As and video interviews. The goal, officials say, is to put a face on government. In the following weeks, for example, senior members of the transition team, various policy experts and choices for the Cabinet, among others, will record videos for

Of course, not all of this techno-political bonanza is 100 percent original: The current administration’s Web site “offers RSS feeds, podcasts and videos of press briefings,” while the “site’s Ask the White House page has featured regular online chats dating back to 2003.” Granted, it’s pretty safe to assume online video clips of Bush didn’t garner quite the same enthusiasm.

RB: Obama Blogs? President-Elect Launches Web Site, Embraces Internet
RB: Politicians v. Technology: Obama, McCain Battle the Internet
RB: Obama Changes His View (Or, at Least, His Web Site) On Technology

Weekly News Roundup: The Military Hates Whales, Warming to Bloggers

By Melissa Lafsky | November 14, 2008 8:46 am

• Transition! Transition! (Insert music here). So here’s the question of the day: Will Obama create a National Energy Council?

• Just in time for winter: A complete history of the flu through the ages.

• The military fought the whales and won.

• What, “Global Warming Poobah” was already taken? Gore offered (but turned down) job as White House “Climate Czar.”

• We can’t decide if this is heartening (drivers are being safe!) or mortally depressing: California air pollution kills more people per year than car crashes.

• A soldier-blogger gets his moment in the spotlight—though the real question is, what does he think of Trooptube?

MORE ABOUT: flu, gore, military, obama, pollution

Obama Blogs? President-Elect Launches Web Site, Embraces Internet

By Melissa Lafsky | November 10, 2008 5:47 pm

After running the most technology-dominated presidential campaign in history, it’s only logical that Obama would keep the trend going into his new administration. And by all accounts, he has every intention of doing so: The Washington Post reports that the president-elect and his transition team are gearing up (pun fully intended) to “create the first truly ‘wired’ presidency.”

So far the major cyber-moves include consolidating the list of over 10 million supporter e-mail addresses gathered during the campaign, planning the transition of Obama’s 95-person “new media” campaign staff into an expanded White House operation, and biggest and flashiest of all, the launch of the president-to-be’s official Web site, It’s self-billed as “your source for the latest news, events and announcements so that you can follow the setting up of the Obama administration,” and so far it contains a forum to share your election day stories, a newsfeed, and lo and behold, a blog! Take that, anti-blogites—if it’s good enough for Obama, it’s good enough for us.

So is this the era of the blogger-president? Can we expect Web cams in the Oval Office and Twitters from cabinet meetings?

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MORE ABOUT: blogs, obama, technology
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