WHAT Transparency Looks Like in Social Media

27 10 2009

It seems one of the words we all heard over and over during the last presidential election was “transparancy,” but it is a difficult term for an administration to bring to tangible fruition. But the Obama administration has been praised for taking one step in the right direction when it recently announced that the official White House website has switched to Drupal technology; a free, open-source, collaborative software package for web design and maintenance. Until now, Drupal has remained relatively small, most known for its use on the site The Onion. If you aren’t familiar with Drupal, this video offers a comprehensive tutorial of what it’s all about.

There are a number of reasons why this shift is a progressive (and impressive) change for politics and deserves our attention. First of all, the openness that Obama has consistently shown towards new and social media is becoming familiar to us. The previous content management system had been in place since the Bush administration took over and is simply a traditional and expensive format, and no tax-payer in today’s economy is in the position to see their dollars thrown away on fruitless government operations.

More importantly, however, Obama has repeatedly expressed his interest in making the government more transparent and interactive. As Nancy Scola discusses in her blog techPresident, drupal-logothe new website platform allows the administration increased flexibility in publishing content as well as a greatly expanded toolbelt of applications to elicit activity from the public. Desired elements such as video streaming and question-and-answer forums could be easily incorporated through Drupal, which made White House media director Macon Phillips’s decision simple when comparing potential systems.

Another reason why we should care about this shift is the increasing acceptance of collaborative technology. As I mentioned, Drupal was previously used for small business operations due to a hesitance to trust such open-source technology. This trend is bound to change now with the acceptance of the most popular kid on the playground, so to speak, who realizes that the community is stabilized and improved by those who contribute to it.

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One response

28 10 2009
Amy English

Transparency is a tricky term. You can’t just talk about transparency- you have to be transparent. It’s even harder in the world of politics because some information needs to stay behind closed doors no matter what. Because of the small amount of information we generally receive, government policies are constantly challenged by the public. Obama has changed White House interaction with the public by embracing social media and Drupal seems like a great way to improve on what he has started. I’m interested to see how this works and if it will lead to a more trusting and informed general public.

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