When history looks back on the Obamas’ time in the White House, they may come to view theirs as the first digital Presidency. From days of prying the President from his Blackberry to social media Q&As they have managed to be more engaged with their audience than any President before or since.
They recently took this onto a new level with the First Lady Michelle Obama. She’s been particularly engaged using mediums such as Vine, Snapchat and Instagram to support initiative such as her Move Campaign designed to get more young people interested in health and exercise. Her use has ranged from the serious with online Q&As to the light hearted when a vine of her dancing to the Turnup – with a turnip went viral.
Now she’s gone and for the first time filmed a 360-degree interview with tech website the Verge. The interview was an experiment for all sides, but showed the White House’s willingness to experiment with innovative technologies.
Using a 360 VR camera, the team was able to capture the first Lady and her staff, the whole room and members of the production staff to create an impressive wrap-around shot of the room. On the downside, though, the ability to see the entire scene forces you to view from further back. To counter this, pop ups showing close ups of each individual when they spoke appeared allowing the viewer to experience the best of both worlds.
During the interview her team talked about their use of social media and digital technology. The first Lady’s office has made use of it in many ways. One of the ways they see VR as being useful is to open up the White House to everyone – providing VR tours to people who would otherwise not get a chance, and finding new ways to engage them in the political process.
For Michelle Obama, social media is particularly useful. Not many people know that the First Lady’s office does not receive any official funding of its own. As such, free PR options such as social media go a long way to providing an affordable outlet.
There are, of course, downsides. Social media platforms create a new link between government and people, but they can also be used for abuse. Politicians and particularly women can find themselves the target of an alarming amount of vitriol. As she states during the interview, part of the problem of social media is it not only cuts out the middle man but it also bypasses the parent. It’s like giving the keys of a car to your kids and telling them to have a go. As social media becomes more popular there’s much to be done in educating people of all ages about the best and most constructive ways in which it needs to be used.