Archive for January 25, 2009

Inaugural iMedia

January 25, 2009

When we watch a TV newscast or read a story in The New York Times, we are consuming linear media. Someone organizes 22 minutes of content for the newscast that we watch in the order it has been prescribed, and someone has written a news story that we read starting with the lead sentence.

Interactive media is not linear. It allows a consumer to choose content more freely and to interact with that content in fresh ways.

For example, have you seen CNN’s interactive image from the presidential inauguration where you can move your cursor to see thousands of faces up close? Or the Times photo that gives you the name of an inaugural platform guest as you hover over a face?

These interactive tools give us the ability to interact with media in new ways, and a number of iMedia techniques are on display at the “10,000 WORDS” site.


I particularly enjoy “word clouds” that can be created using Wordle.

The New York Times has created word clouds for every inaugural address (available at the “10,000 WORDS” site).¬†For example, the three most-used key words in George Washington’s first address in 1789 were “government, public, country.” Thomas Jefferson, in 1805, used the word “reason” far more than any President before or since.

Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address emphasized “constitution, law, union” whereas his second inaugural address emphasized “war, God, offense.” You could tell what was on William Howard Taft’s mind in 1909 when his address placed greater emphasis on words such as “business, tariff, railroads.”

In a time of crisis, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural language highlighted “help, discipline, recovery.” Ronald Reagan said “believe, hero, dream” significantly more in his first inaugural address than other presidents. For Bill Clinton, he spoke a lot about the “world, change, renewal.”

George W. Bush’s second inaugural address, in 2005, was unusual in that he never used the words “Iraq, Afghanistan, Sept. 11 or terrorism” and instead cast the crises and wars as a struggle in defense of his most-used word: “freedom.”

So we come to Barack Obama’s inaugural address. His three most-used key words were “nation, America, people” — not unlike many Presidents before him. But the words that he used in much larger proportions than his predecessors included “crisis, hard, endure.”

I spent more than an hour clicking on the faces of Presidents and seeing the language they used to address the American people at their inaugurations. It’s a case of taking something linear — a speech — and making it come alive through interactive media techniques.