- Browse All
We’ve reached the twilight hours of Barack Obama’s presidency.
A typical transition period requires many handovers, but this year, one of these is an altogether new endeavor for a White House: turning the sitting President’s social media presence over to the new office holder. These Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Facebook, etc. accounts will be wiped and exported, some to archival accounts—for instance, Obama’s tweets will live on at @POTUS44—and some to a public data archive.
On the occasion of this first social media transition, the White House issued a public call to action, asking Americans to try their hand at breathing life into the huge amount of data that is President Obama's eight years of social media presence. We were thrilled to respond. (With others, too!) The data archive, vast and disparate as it is, is largely unintelligible; what we proposed was using our built in-house Webrecorder tool to give it some narrative shape, some animation and dynamism.
Dragan Espenschied, our preservation director—along with Aria Dean, assistant curator, and Kaela Noel, program coordinator—has crafted three narratives drawn from the Obama social media archive. Today, Webrecorder is very good at archiving and reperforming embedded and personalized web content,** but for this presentation Dragan developed a custom, if relatively simple curatorial framework for the archived materials._ __(Consider it a preview of future narrative features in Webrecorder.)**_
Each of the archives tells a different story, highlighting interactions among the White House, the Obamas, and online publics. “Thanks Obama” explores the satirization of conservative disappointment with Obama, mapping the meme’s progression from its earnest right-wing origins all the way to its self-aware usage by Obama himself. “TD4W x FLOTUS” similarly tracks a meme, but in this case it’s Lil Jon and Michelle Obama’s inadvertent collaboration on the First Lady’s now-infamous "turnip for what" Vine. And finally, we archived responses to Obama’s #LoveWins tweet and the White House's Instagram post following the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Together, these dynamic archives show the ways in which the Obama presidency was embedded in the cultural sphere, influencing and being influenced by the music, humor, trends, and social media raucous that defined his time in office. They are also examples of how a curated web archive can clear a path through otherwise overwhelming data and really tell a story. Here, the story is "Barack Obama, our first 'social media president.'"
Lil Jon and Michelle Obama’s inadvertent collaboration on the First Lady’s now-infamous “turnip for what” Vine.
On February 20, 2014, musical artists DJ Snake and Lil Jon launched a social media campaign for their smash hit Turn Down For What [🔗2].
DJ Snake, Lil Jon - Turn Down for What - YouTube
Official music video for Turn Down for What.
It's an older meme, sir, but it checks out. - Imgur
In October of the same year, when #TD4W was already an old meme...
#AskTheFirstLady: Michelle Obama Answers Your Questions about Let's Move! (with tweets) · FLOTUS · Storify
At around the same time, Michelle Obama promoted Let’s Move!, her program to end childhood obesity, with an #AskTheFirstLady session on Vine.
Alphacat's Question on Vine
The actor and Barack Obama impersonator Iman Crosson posed a question which was in turn answered by...
Michelle Obama's Reaction on Vine
... Michelle Obama's now legendary #TurnipForWhat Vine clip. 🤣
Twitter Thread: "How many calories do you burn every time you 'turn up'?!"
Since Vine is not very good at contextualizing videos, Crosson made the connection on Twitter.
The phrase “turn down for what” and its variations have become a staple of web communication.
#td4w on twitter 2014
On Twitter, Michelle Obama’s video dominated the hashtag #TD4W in 2014.
#td4w on twitter 2016
In fact, even in 2016, users are still circulating it.
Vine Dries Up. Black Humor Loses a Home - The New York Times
The FLOTUS’ prominence in the meme’s life is a lasting reminder of the Obamas’ blackness—she plays with the black vernacular origins of the phrase “turn up” and originated the meme on Vine, a platform known for its facilitation of black cultural production.
Has TD4W run it's course?
See user cmz8706's comment on the extremely popular TD4W Kitten Jam, March 2014:
alright it's official. Turn Down For What has run its course when middle aged women with laser pointers jump on the bandwagon with their Youtube kittens, it's officially over.
No, no it has not...
This was apparently a common mis-judgement, since moms rule the internet.
Exploring the satirization of conservative disappointment with Obama, mapping the Thanks Obama meme’s progression from its earnest right-wing origins all the way to its self-aware usage by Obama himself.
A comparison of responses to Obama’s #LoveWins tweet and the White House's Instagram post following the legalization of same-sex marriage.