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@Mayor: Cory Booker on the power of technology

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Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of Mayor Cory Booker in the headline. The text has been corrected.

South By Southwest might be a festival of rock, movie, and technology stars. But the festival in Austin, Texas also had a visit from a politician. Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker spoke at a hack-a-thon event put together by some of Lady Gaga’s social media team. Booker hopes to join the festival’s tech stars with a startup called #waywire, which aims to help regular people create multimedia content that can be searched easily.

Marketplace Tech caught up with Booker at the Festival to find out more about his new start-up and social media philosophy.

“The problem with these massive utilities like Youtube is that it is very hard to discover the video that you really need,” Booker said. “What I started realizing with things like Pandora, was creating algorithms better brought music that I really enjoyed. I said wait a minute, why isn’t there something like this for video?”

Booker is also known for tweeting around the clock and painstakingly documenting his adventures — including an instance when he saved a neighbor from a burning building. Though recognized for his heroics, some criticize him for over-sharing.

“I get yelled at all the time,” Booker said, also noting that his own staff worries he tweets too much. Nevertheless, Booker advises people to be authentic.

“If you are up at two in the morning and you are thinking something, consider sharing it with people,” he said. “If you have a corny joke — Corny and Cory are one letter apart — put them out there. Let’s stop putting our politicians up on a pedestal and start realizing they are just like us, they have insomnia, they drink too much caffeine, they get frustrated sometimes.”

Booker sees social media as a powerful way to connect government to constituents. The mayor even remembers the the tweet that first carried him across what he called “the Rubicon.” When welcoming troops back from Afghanistan, he received a tweet from a veteran in California who needed support services and was able to lend a hand. 

For his part, Booker is clearly is more impressed with the transformative power of technology and less worried about what it does to you. Even so, he said tech companies need to work harder on boosting diversity and supporting diverse enterprises.

“I believe in humanity’s ability to create [and] innovate,” Booker said. “Technology is going to be [an] accelerating force to make real Martin Luther King’s vision. [Martin Luther King] said we are all ‘caught in an inescapable network of mutualities.’ That network that ties us together is getting more rapid, those connections that can now be made cross geography, race, religion.”

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