In a historic sense, we have officially begun the era of America 2.0. Many political pundits and Presidential historians will make a living for the next generation with analysis of what the Presidency of Barack Hussein Obama will mean for our collective futures.
My angle is simple and parallels the major technological force that is reshaping our society, Web2.0.
In Presidential terms, there have been a few major inflection points in our history. If you doubt this just ask a grade school student.
There was Washington and the creation of our nation, Lincoln and emancipation and the Civil War, Franklin Roosevelt for the New Deal, World War II, and the Great (first?) Depression, Lyndon Johnson for civil rights, and Reagan for the the fall of the Soviet Union.
In each case history can be starkly categorized in a before and after view.
In communication technological terms we had similar points of demarcation such as the invention of language, use of written alphabets, scrolls and books, the printing press, mail service, libraries, telegraph, radio, television, telephone, wireless communications, computers, the Internet and now Web2.0.
President Obama came to power in the midst of, and partly because of, the changing societal norms in the way we all communicate.
Franklin Roosevelt with his fireside chats, mastered radio as a communications vehicle. John Kennedy mastered the medium of television and Ronald Reagan combined television with a mastery of the pulpit at Evangelical Churches to communicate his message. President Obama is the first Web2.0 President.
The real message here is that we have now passed the tipping point for Web2.0. This is no longer an election story, but one that will be commonplace in how we move forward as a society.
Web2.0 will be part of all future marketing campaigns as well as political movements. The 10’s of millions of “friends” in the various Obama social networking groups do not cease to exist on January 21, 2009. Social Networks live on. These lists will grow, will influence, will be influenced, and will become the number one asset in the inevitable re-election campaign of 2012.
With a new found appreciation for the power of Web2.0, marketing organizations, brands and other organizations are jumping into this medium.
Here are my Web2.0 examples from the inauguration:
How compelling was it to watch the inauguration on CNN’s web page with all of your Facebook friends scrolling their comments, compared to “Katie Couric 1.0” on one-way, non-interactive broadcast television?
During the Inauguration I got recommendations from a relative in Israel, in real time, to befriend someone who was posting their reactions and photos, live from the Washington Mall by way of Facebook.
My high school class recently started a virtual reunion on Facebook. This class was very much shaped by the titanic forces of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war. We had an integrated school district with busing in a community that was largely segregated. To share the joy and amazement of what we witnessed this week with some long lost schoolmates was fantastic.
Twitter, MySpace and Youtube were all a buzz with a constant flow of words, photos and videos.
We are all connected in a way that has tipped the political landscape.
During his speech, President Obama stated that the old rules no longer apply. There are many ways to interpret this statement. One way is that we are so connected with Web2.0 that the old rules of controlling mass public opinion are just that, old.
Social networks, whether formed for political purposes, commercial marketing or high school reunion’s organically exist, grow and feed amongst themselves. They are the new medium for mass communication.
The important lessons from history are that this change, this inflection point, is not inherently good or evil, it just is. Its power is in how it influences our real lives. In the case of President Obama, it has affected all of our lives and perhaps the future history of the world for the next generation.
It is up to us to determine the uses.
Will it continue to empower self expression and sharing of ideas or become an even more powerful mechanism for controlling public option?
We are now sitting at a point in history that will be written about for the next 100 years.
The choice is how we use this new communication medium is ours.