I don’t have a well formed set of thoughts around this idea that’s germinating with me, which is why this is showing up on my personal blog. Perhaps some of you will pitch in in the comments and help me shape this idea.
A lot of people I know and have been reading lately have been talking quite a bit about how words like “social media” no longer apply or are bad terms for what we use it for (I’m looking directly at you, Ken Camp [we spoke about it here together, actually], Sheryl Breuker, Steven Hodson, and Joe Jaffe. Earlier today I read something that Jeff Jarvis put out (which was the straw that broke the camel’s back on this, actually) that talked about how the Internet shouldn’t be looked at as a medium, but as a place.
I get the points that everyone are driving at, and maybe I’m too literal, but I like the terms “social media” and the idea of referring to the Internet as a “medium.”
Social Media is exactly what it sounds like. I’m a content producer. I make stuff. It may not look much like it some days, but I consider what I do for a living to be more of art than assembly line work. Curating links is a bit like creating a mosaic. Crafting a good blog post is heavily reliant on inspiration and passion. A good video interview takes technique and timing and talent.
And it’s social. I throw that media I create out there and it transforms and evolves through interaction. The art of conversation. I like it.
But when it comes down to it, for the base definition of the word, it’s media thrown out to be social around. I won’t apologize for using the word.
I Am a Citizen of the Internet
Sounds sort of silly, but there was a time I might have gone along with that premise. In the early days of the Internet (or at least my early days), it was a different place. For a frame of reference, I’m talking about the era surrounding the “September that Never Ended.”
Back then, the ‘mainstream’ was riled up about free speech. The people on the web and the various ‘net services seemed to be a different breed. Sure, sometimes a seedier breed, but in general dominated by intellectuals, pseudo-intellectuals, but mostly folks with above-average IQ. In today’s terms, Friendfeed’s community circa 2008-2009 would be a good comparison.
Back then, in the 90’s, I could imagine a world where the ‘Net declared independence from the world, and folks who lived online could lead some sort of life devoid of landlubber-based citizenship. Then again, I was a teenager, and read a lot of science fiction books, too.
These days, I really have no choice but to look at the Internet as a tool. I could anthropomorphize the web and try to apply characteristics to it that make it easier to understand, but at this point can we really say it’s more than a tool for communication, albeit an increasingly essential one?
If blog posts were places, if the ‘Net was a place, and a “park or a streetcorner where people pass and meet, talk and argue, where they are right and wrong, where they connect with each other and information and actions” as Jeff Jarvis says, it is temporal and transient like no other place I’ve ever encountered.
“A Permalink is a Promise…” that’s too often broken.
You can revisit most old conversations on the ‘Net if you saved the link. Unless the site has moved. Or upgraded it’s CMS. Or took place on a site that was acquired. Or one of the individuals deleted their side of the conversation. Or Yahoo deletes Geocities. Or Google buys the USENET archive and forgets to maintain the old permalink structure for Dejanews.
The truth is, the way the net is shaping up, we’re able to selectively remember, in a sense, our conversations in this cloud in much the same way our own memories rewrite history in a way that ends up justifying our worldviews and egos.
That sounds more like a medium and less like a place. But that’s just me.