July 30, 2010, Fukuoka – The Fukuoka American Center, in cooperation with the Public Affairs section at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, used social media communications technology to completely revamp our scheduled program titled “e.Politics – Government and You” at the last moment, after our scheduled speaker, Mr. Ari Wallach, was suddenly unable to travel from Tokyo to Fukuoka. Mr. Wallach, the founder and managing partner of Synthesis Corp. of New York, is an expert in the use of “Web 2.0” social networking technology in political campaigning and government, and was a co-creator of the “Great Schlep” online video which helped candidate Barack Obama win the support of Jewish Americans in the 2008 Presidential election.
As Mr. Wallach could not give an in-person presentation, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo used digital video conferencing technology to transmit their recording of Mr. Wallach’s Tokyo speech from the previous day to the Fukuoka American Center. Following that, Mr. Wallach joined the program live from his hotel room in Tokyo using Skype video telephony to answer attendee questions about the role of new technologies in politics in Japan and in the United States. According to attendee feedback, this innovative use of social networking technology to facilitate a discussion of that self-same topic was powerful evidence of the potential of such tools to facilitate two-way communications and change the political dynamics of elections and government.
Mr. Wallach’s comments, especially his assessment that the technological and social groundwork exists for Japanese social media to see explosive growth in the near future, and his prediction that Japan’s Election Law would almost surely change to permit the use of internet-based tools in future elections, were also of intense interest. Among the attendees were many politicians and government officials, who were impressed by what Mr. Wallach had done in the United States, and indicated interest in developing culturally-appropriate ways to leverage similar tools in Japan.