I had a post ready to go this week about Postmates’ difficult fundraise a couple of days ago, but with so much happening with presidential politics, I couldn’t help myself. Also, I should mention that @emilypetroni14 wrote a great post (https://isys6621.com/2016/11/13/how-the-election-was-won-with-less-and-more-tweets/) which largely inspired my question! What happens to all the digital assets that have been created over the last 8 years?
President Obama is the first president we’ve had in the digital age. When he took office platforms like Facebook and Twitter were just catching on, iPhones were slowly gaining market share, and Uber was just a way to impress a date for a ride to dinner instead of a common form of transportation. But a lot’s changed since then, and a lot of planning is in place to ensure that our 45th President will be in good shape to also govern the digital landscape in the West Wing.
On Halloween the White House posted a fascinating piece about the digital transition of power. To briefly summarize, they note that over the last 8 years their digital footprint has grown significantly. In just 2009 the Office of Communications established a presidential blog, an email list for the public (mainly press releases, statements, and weekly addresses on Saturdays), and joined Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Vimeo, iTunes and Myspace. In 2011 the White House even set up an online platform called We The People that allowed members of the general public to petition the White House on important issues. Then in 2015 came the first ever tweet from a sitting president, appropriately from @POTUS (an acronym endearingly used by staff around Washington that was given rise during the inimitable series, West Wing, but I digress). And recently, the White House has set up a Snapchat account and even created a story for the State of the Union. For anyone who understands how unwelcome change is in Washington, D.C., this represents an incredible amount of progress on the administrative level, and a real willingness to stay connected to the people.
But once again, things have changed and in a little less than 70 days the inauguration of a new president will take place. So what happens to all of those tweets and snaps once President Obama is gone? Well, this is what staffer Kori Schulman, Deputy Chief Digital Officer at the White House had to say: “First, we are preserving the material we’ve created with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). From tweets to snaps, all of the material we’ve published online will be preserved with NARA just as previous administrations have done with records ranging from handwritten notes to faxes to emails. Second, wherever possible, we are working to ensure these materials continue to be accessible on the platforms where they were created, allowing for real time access to the content we’ve developed. Finally, we are working to ensure that the next president and administration – regardless of party – can continue to use and develop the digital assets we have created to connect directly with the people they serve. ”
Sound good? Everything gets archived. But the accounts will be transitioned to the National Archives for safekeeping, and so that people can access them easily. In the meantime, Kori is looking for a few good men and women to help out with preserving this data, and the White House has opened up the floor for ideas, and you can click here to apply: https://www.whitehouse.gov/participate/opening-our-data-public