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AS THE first-ever chief digital officer at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sree Sreenivasan created the museum’s much-lauded app and redesigned its website, attracting millions of digital visitors and helping increase attendance by young people. But in June 2016, three years after Sreenivasan started, the financially troubled museum eliminated his and several other positions due to budget cuts.
Rather than be discouraged, the former Columbia University journalism professor turned to his peers, sharing a survey on his personal website with a single question: “What should I do next?” The response was swift; Sreenivasan received 1,300 suggestions. “Everybody talks about how bad the Internet is and how there is so much hate,” he says. “But it felt like I was in a global, digital hug.”
Before that experiment in crowdsourcing his future had time to pay off, Sreenivasan got an offer from another great New York institution: the city itself. He is now leading NYC’s digital efforts, which include steering the 300-plus websites under the nyc.gov handle, nurturing New York’s startup scene, and finding ways to reach less-connected residents who aren’t yet plugged into the city’s digital offerings. It’s a big challenge, and his boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio, has high expectations. “He decided to tweet what my job is,” says Sreenivasan. “He wrote, ‘Onward to becoming the most tech-friendly, transparent, digitally equitable city in the world.’ Which is great and simple and scary. Now somebody can say, ‘From these three things, what have you achieved?’”
Quick questions for Sreenivasan
BEST RECENT TECH DEVELOPMENT
The rise of personal live-streaming. “It affords people the opportunity to connect with other people, places, and organisations. And the best part about it is there’s no post-production.”
Hype around new technology. “Everybody’s still searching for what’s next. They don’t give enough importance to the tools they’re already using.”
FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNT
National Geographic on Instagram. “It’s a great example of how you use the platform.”
ON HIS LIST OF MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE
Liza Donnelly, a cartoonist for The New Yorker. “She’s reinventing cartooning for the 21st century.”
HOW HE STAYS PRODUCTIVE
“I do everything on my phone, as much as I can, so that I’m responding and getting things done throughout the day.”
Sree Sreenivasan begins the discussion of social media importance at the #Burgh workshop on March 24, 2015.