[iDC] How does social media educate?

Ulises arsalaan1-idc at yahoo.com
Fri Feb 2 15:37:29 EST 2007


I guess it makes sense to begin by asking: What is 'social media'? However, your questions and observations are already suggesting that it might not be that easy to provide an answer.

Personally, I had been using the term 'social software' until it became sort of unpopular, perhaps because the word 'software' put too much emphasis on the tools. 'Social media' is more encompassing of the different actors and arenas. At the same time, I have a strong aversion to the term Web 2.0--it seems to exceed the narrowness of 'social software' by pretending that 'social' movements can be neatly organized and mapped. But that's just me. 

By defining the term 'social media' too broadly, we get everything that  involves humans and communication technologies. By defining it too narrowly, we might miss the forest for the trees, as you suggest, by collapsing 'media' with 'social medium,' ignoring the necessity to ask how 'the social' is being redefined in this collusion.  

But if precise definitions are a necessary evil, what do you think about Dion Hinchcliffe's attempt below?

Defining Social Media: Some Ground Rules
(as we understand them circa January 2007)

1. Communication in the form of conversation, not monologue.  This implies that social media must facilitate two-way discussion, discourse, and debate with little or no moderation or censorship.  In other words, the increasingly ubiquitious comments section of your local blog or media sharing site is NOT optional and must be open to everyone. 
2. Participants in social media are people, not organizations.  Third-person voice is discouraged and the source of ideas and participation is clearly identified and associated with the individuals that contributed them.  Anonymity is also discouraged but permissible in some very limited situations.

3. Honesty and transparency are core values.  Spin and attempting to control, manipulate, or even spam the conversation are thoroughly discouraged.  Social media is an often painfully candid forum and traditional organizations -- which aren't part of the conversation other than through their people -- will often have a hard time adjusting to this. 
4. It's all about pull, not push.  Like McKinsey & Company noted a year ago or so , push-based systems, of which one-way marketing and advertising and command-and-control management are typical examples are no where near as efficient as pull systems where people bring to them the content and relationships that they want, instead of having them forced on themselves.  Far from being a management theory, much of what we see in Web 2.0 shows the power of pull-based systems with extremely large audiences.  As you shape a social media community, understanding how to make embrace pull instead of push is one of the core techniques.  In social media, people are in control of their conversations, not the pushers. [I strongly disagree with Hinchcliffe here! What about power laws?]
5. Distribution instead of centralization.  One often overlooked aspect of social media is the fact that the interlocutors are so many and varied.  Gone are the biases that inevitably creep into information when only a few organizations control the creation and distribution of information.  Social media is highly distributed and made up of tens of millions of voices making it far more textured, rich, and heterogeneous than old media could ever be (or want to be).  Encouraging conversations on the vast edges of our networks, rather than in the middle, is what this point is all about. 


More information about the iDC mailing list