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3/24/2009

Web 2.0 , Social Media ... what's next?

Personally, I have to confess that I dislike the term "Social Media" almost as much as some people dislike "Web 2.0" In my mind, neither of these two terms really communicate the essence of the impact that these new tools and channels enable - which is really nothing more than human conversations and connections enabled across channels of mass impact and scale.

Five years ago when I started this blog, it was all about "web 2.0" and 2.0 this-n-that. And since only the "techie" people really got it at first, this early moniker fit the crowd well. Today, the term I constantly hear banter around is "social media" (admittedly I used it to, because it's now the popular understood phrase) and the bandwagon is now fully supported by a legion of new marketers who seem to see the "media" potential of these new channels as familiar old marketing approaches as mass communication techniques begin to die off.

To be honest I don't have a term to offer up that's any better then "web 2.0" or "social media" at the present moment. But what I do constantly glob onto in my head is the idea that these channels don't mold well to the "control, conquer and command" approaches forged by the big business communication practices of the past or even the notion of "media" as an entity in itself.

"Media" itself is word that is derived from the Latin word medius, meaning middle or intermediate. In the 1921 the word was first applied to communication to define channels (print, magazines, newspapers) that were designed to reach mass audiences. But if you've spent a large amount of time actually engaged in social networks as I have, then I'm wondering if you may have come to the the similar conclusion. That is ...

...that the power of these tools and channels isn't in being an "intermediary" or in supporting the middle. The power comes from empowering the one-to-one or i-to-i (individual-to-individual) connection and enabling communication and dialogue to happen at the primary source level.

For me, I guess this why the term "social media" still doesn't quite grab me as being right. For now that the channels exist that enable mass access to millions and millions of "primary source" individuals, there's really no longer a need for "media" (aka middle/intermediary). Only the innate need for human contact and connections at a very personal level"

... and you don't need a middle man for personal.


PS: This ramble was inspired by this image from Digital Roam


6 comments:

Andrew said...

When I was speaking at Flagler College on Social Media and Citizen Journalism the semantics of these phrases came up time and again and I sort of refused to defend them. I agree that both are in our lexicon now and regardless of how they got there we sort of have to live with them until something better comes along. That said I am glad to know I'm not the only one trying to think of some other terms to better define what it is we're all doing.

byn said...

I tend to call it 'social technologies'... and yes, I agree, 2.0 is extremely burnt out. When I saw "Car 2.0" I knew that it had jumped the shark.

pollyalida said...

I've never liked the term 'social media' either. It never seemed to click with me. These are simply tools/technologies that make it easier to be communicate and share. And like the telegraph, telephone and email in earlier times, they are certainly changing our expectations about how we can connect with others.

As you said, there really is no 'media' involved. It's one to one, one to many, many to many, and at the heart it is about people. "people as primary sources" - I like that concept.

Tony Tallent said...

This is a really great discussion to have. I think that it is good to ask ourselves every once in a while "why do we call it that?" It really helps us to keep the language fresh. "Social" is a great adjective--what comes after that is the trick, huh? "Social Tech" as mentioned above is nice and clear.
Tony

Jim said...

A new term for a new age. Web 2.0 and Social Media have never flowed well off of my tongue. Steve Jobs would take issue with I-Media (Individual, Instant, Internet-Driven, Incessant....). I-Tech...nope. Since you have blogged it, it will come (Field of Medias).

Tessa said...

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