Digital Writing and the SOTU

Digital Writing and the SOTU

Like many other Americans, I am currently watching the 2012 State of the Union, both on our TV and in another tab of this web browser.

While there are many opinions bouncing around Twitter (and other spaces, too, I am sure) about the political statements being made, the rhetorical effectiveness of those statements, and people’s opinons of them, I am interested in watching this event as an unfolding act of digital writing. Touted earlier in the week as an opportunity to participate in an enhanced livestream, I was curious to see what would unfold.

#sotu on Twitter

In some ways, the “enhanced broadcast” is simply a slide deck to accompany the SOTU speech. Edward Tufte has already criticized the ways in which PPT affects our cognitive abilities, so there is not much more to say about that here. Some of the criticisms of it coming over Twitter focus on the quality of the design of the graphics, yet I do think this is an interesting way to add to the broadcast. I had hoped that this would provide a kind of “fact check” type of resource rather than simply being a repetition of the main bullet points from the speech. But, that will come in the analysis of the speech, I suppose. A YouTubed version of the speech with the fact checking overlaid would be nice.

Still, it does make for an interesting case of digital writing in action: how can a planned media-driven event use web-based technology to “enhance” what is happening? How does this “enhancement” utilize other social media tools? What is the goal of the enhancement, both in the sense of more accurately or robustly delivering the message as well as in the sense of engaging people in active dialogue about it? More importantly, what are all the pre-, during, and post-writing activities (and roles) that the President and his team of speechwriters and social media specialists needed to think about in order to design this overall experience?

One idea that I wondered about was if there would be a live feed of the #sotu Twitter feed right on this White House site. Instead, I had to have another device opened up to do that. If I wanted to see dissenting opinions, I needed to seek them outside of the White House site. So, in order to fully “engage” in this “enhanced” experience as a citizen — one who is open to hearing the message being delivered, yet wanting to be both skeptical of the way it is presented and hear dissenting opinions — I had to have the live broadcast from TV on one screen, the live stream on my laptop (because it wouldn’t play on the iPad), and my HootSuite opened up with the hashtag.

Multitasking during SOTU

Talk about multitasking.

I wonder how many people got outside of their own filter bubbles and really tried to view and respond to the SOTU by taking in the multiple inputs and, ideally, taking in opinions and ideas from other voices, too? I wonder if “enhanced” is the correct term for the web-based broadcast, since it was really only a PPT delivered on the side, adding to the idea that the speech really is just the sum of its sound bites.

All the same, it was an interesting experience, and the most engaged I have been in a SOTU speech, even if it was a bit disorienting and disappointing as an exercise in digital writing.

 

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