Tuesday, March 1, 2011

All That "Digital Stuff": The Basics

No, no--wait! Don't leave. I promise to have contest winners announced...before it's the weekend. Come on, stay...

I came across a tweet yesterday from Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa) linking to a sparring match between Macolm Gladwell and Clay Shirky. The basic argument? What is the #$*$%#@ point of social media (SM)?

Gladwell says SM is an innovation but perhaps it doesn't "Matter," so much. Twitter and Facebook don't solve appreciable real world problems. They're nice, but...they did give us Farmville.

I suppose I see the point. But I lean more towards Shirky's argument. Using recent political uprisings as examples, he points to ways that SM and digital platforms (phones, for ex.) have changed the playing field in a lot of games. I think Egypt is a fine example. The protests in London earlier this year made extraordinary use of Google Maps.

Those are extreme examples. But I'd be hard pressed to find any aspect of our current culture that hasn't been revolutionized by SM and its portability on digital platforms. Well...so? Does that "Matter?"

Yes. I think it does.

Social media is not about what problems it solves/what it can do for you. Mostly, it's just about making friends and utilizing the incredible economies of scale that having thousands of friends create (word-of-mouth, anyone?). But SM and digital content (apps) are also about solving the problems you didn't even know you had. Using someone else's brain labor.

Apps come out and people smack their heads--how did they live before they could Yelp? Before being able to download a flashlight onto their phone! And why didn't I think of that?! Chuck Wendig got a chili recipe off Twitter, for goodness' sake. He COULD HAVE STARVED!

SM puts you in touch with experts you'd never have access to otherwise in an environment where questions and exchange of ideas can be nonthreatening. Noncreepy (I know you can do it). Digital platforms make SM mobile and, through apps, make experts' creations easily accessible.

If that's not revolutionary...


  1. Great post! SM (snort) can be super useful so long as the newbies watch what they post. Agents blogs, of late, have warned what not to do...I just hope my fellow writers heed their warning!

  2. Social Media has opened up a world or bacon recipes and bacon-related products for me.

  3. As with any communication, it depends on how you choose to use it. Everyone has a mouth (hopefully) but it doesn't mean we want to hear what comes out of it. On the other hand, it can be quite an effective tool.

  4. I think that anything that changes the way we communicate with one another MATTERS-- how can it not? Humans are social animals, after all. Socialization is kind of one of our THINGS. We look to make connections, and we use the tools at our disposal to do so. I'm not sure if it's any different, really, than learning to talk, or write, or cave-paint. And who knows-- maybe our ancestors were sitting around looking at the first cave paintings and saying "well, it's nice, but... what's the point?"

    The point is not just exchanging ideas, but believing we have something of worth to say and sharing it. The point is leaving a mark, and yeah, maybe it contributes a little bit to our self-entitlement and self-interest, culturally, but that makes it MATTER even more. Whether we like it or not, social media is altering our social norms and cultural patterns, making the world within our reach both bigger and smaller, and whether we want to admit it or not, those changes affect our society on the whole. And maybe THAT is the whole point. Not just revolution, but evolution.

  5. Marshall McLuhan perhaps said it best: "Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication." Sadly, social media is more about self-promotion/advertising than it is about delivering accurate content. The social media user can choose to approach it as a way to promote wisdom and insight on complex cuts-both-ways issues such as the Wisconsin debacle and health care reform (as long as said user knows how to do so without inherent bias). However, too many times social media lends itself simply to "I exist! And here is my point of view outside of a factual context!" This is not always a good thing, because it leads to widespread misinformation.

  6. It can also do some pretty amazing things- a few days ago, Maureen Johnson decided she wanted to raise the money for a shelterbox for natural disaster victims (average price of a box=$950), so she announced on twitter that anyone who donated would go into a drawing for her last ARC and she'd make up the difference. Because of the overwhelming response, it spread out across two days with more swag gifted from other authors, agents, and editors, and they raised 8 or 9 boxes.
    And this all started on Twitter.