Obama, Web 2.0 and Planning

Chris Steins's picture

What can we as planners learn from president-elect Barak Obama's use of technology?

President-elect Obama has been an early adopter of Web 2.0 technologies both in his campaign and the transition to the White House. It is likely that the Obama administration will continue to use Web 2.0 technologies to both engage the public in determining policies and to make government operations more transparent.

As planners, there are a lot of great tools and techniques that we can use in the planning processes. Here are some of the tools that the Obama team have used that could be used in planning.

Image from event screen on my.barackobama.com websitemy.barackobama.com Website
Many view the Obama campaign's use of the my.barackobama.com website and online organizing tools as a key to the campaign's success. Over 1 million registered users were able to setup their own blog, donate, send and receive emails and text messages, find or organize local events, and access a variety of  resources to help mobilize voters.

Some of the most interesting uses of Web 2.0 technology by the campaign have been in the arena of crowdsourcing -- the act of inviting a large number of people to help create, capture or analyze large amounts of data that is made possible through the use of collaborative technologies.

The Obama team invited visitors to recommend, discuss and vote on ideas for consideration by the Obama administration on the change.gov website. Over 125,000 users submitted over 44,000 ideas and cast over 1.4 million votes. The best rated ideas will be gathered into a Citizen's Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama after he is sworn in.

Another example is the inauguration. CNN is inviting participants at the inauguration to help capture the moment when Barak Obama is sworn in by taking photos at that moment, and then sending them via SMS or email to CNN.

CNN will use Microsoft's Photosynth technology to create a 3D image of a moment in time using crowd-sourced images. Microsoft's Photosynth technology is a very exciting way to create three-dimensional environments from a collection of photos of a subject from different points of view.

The days of five-second sound bites on the evening news are ending. Video sharing sites like YouTube give us access to the entire event or speech, not just the media-edited version. The Obama team has their own YouTube channel with over 1,800  videos from all aspects of the campaign, including speeches, events, ads, and documentaries. The campaign's use of YouTube was so successful that YouTube and Congress have now launched their own channels as well.

Many of us use this popular photosharing website for personal photos, but powerful organizing tools are also available. Obama's Flickr stream includes over 53,526 images submitted by supporters and the campaign.

Twitter is a micro-blogging service, where users blog posts limited to 140 characters (a short sentence). Obama's twitter feed is followed by over 165,000 fellow twitterers.

Nearly 4 million people have registered as Obama supporters on the popular social networking website, where the Obama team released regular updates during the campaign.


Chris Steins is co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Planetizen.



How about going further?

Don't just tell us what's out there; tell us how planners might apply them.
Mike Stanger

Build Your Own Paper Block City

Urban Fold is an all-inclusive kit that allows anyone to build the city of their dreams with a few simple folds.
building block set

NEW! Build the world you want to see

Irresistible block set for adults when placed on a coffee table or desk, and great fun for kids.
Book cover of Insider's Guide to Careers in Urban Planning

So you want to be a planner...

Check out our behind the scenes look at 25 careers in the Urban Planning field
Starting at $14.95

Stay thirsty, urbanists

These sturdy water bottles are eco-friendly and perfect for urbanists on the go.