President Obama was the first US president to use Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook Live, and YouTube to engage the public. Now, his White House has released its plans for what it will do with all that content he and his team created while in office.
After soliciting proposals for creative uses of the White House's social media data — spanning across platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Vine and posted by Obama, the First Lady, the White House, and more — the White House today said it will rely on partners such as Giphy, the MIT Media Lab, and the Internet Archive to preserve its posts and videos in a number of creative ways.
Giphy, for example, created a page that displays the GIFs the White House shared while Obama was in office. The MIT Media Lab did an analysis of the White House's tweets to find out what topics it was discussing on Twitter from Jan. 1, 2016, to Oct. 3, 2016, and compared that with the topics that accounts discussing the 2016 election were tweeting about. And the Internet Archive is making its archive of Obama's White House data available for download.
Until now, it was possible to scrape Twitter to get some of this data, but a comprehensive collection of the White House's social data wasn't easily accessible. This new effort it should make it easier to analyze the president's social presence. The MIT Media Lab analysis, for instance, shows that President Obama was tweeting more about gun control and less about foreign policy and national security than other election-engaged Twitter users.
"Given that so much of the media (and social media) news cycle revolves around now and what's next, it's sometimes difficult to be able to look back, and in general none of us have the tools for it," White House Director of Product Josh Miller told BuzzFeed News in an email. "These first tools will make it easier for citizens to conduct research, understand trends, and relive big moments, and more."
Here are all the ways the White House is making the data available:
ArchiveSocial's Search Box
This is a searchable database that "contains over 250,000 posts, photos, and videos shared by more than 100 official Obama White House social media profiles," according to its website.
Rhizome's Multimedia Essays
The digital art organization Rhizome is creating interactive essays filled with links that reveal how White House–related memes like Thanks Obama originated and went viral.
MIT Media Lab's Electome Group's Topic Analysis
The group explored "how the White House, President Obama, and the First Lady have used Twitter to communicate with the public," according to its website.
Derek Lieu's Tweet Language Analysis
Lieu, a programmer, analyzed the language the White House used in tweets, showing when it began embracing the term "Obamacare" and began using POTUS in earnest.
Giphy's Obama Page
The GIF search engine created a page with all the GIFs the White House shared while Obama was in office. And some other content, like Vines posted by the White House and related GIFs, was pulled in by the Giphy team.
Feel Train's @Relive44 Bot
This bot will spend the next eight years tweeting what the Obama White House tweeted over the past eight years — in real time.
University of Texas-Austin and NYU's School Projects
These two schools will use the data to teach. NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program is hosting an Obama-themed hackathon called the "Obamathon." Amelia Acker, an assistant professor at UT-Austin, will put the data to use to teach topics like metadata.
Internet Archive's Archive
The Internet Archive will make the Obama White House's data available for download on its site. It's also hosting a hackathon of its own on Saturday, Jan. 7. Here are some details from its website:
When Donald Trump is inaugurated as president on Jan. 20, President Obama's @POTUS Twitter account will be handed over to Trump. The new president will keep the account's 13 million+ followers, but he will start with a fresh timeline containing no tweets.
Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
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