Impressions on the Social Age

Here Comes Shirky & Friends

Posted in Reading Response by Trace on May 17, 2010

My friend Becca recently moved to Australia to study. Before she left I asked a question that may have been ludicrous ten years ago, but no longer, “What is your blog?” What young-person moves to a new place without keeping a blog of their adventures? Becca updates her blog occasionally with short stories and insight about her experiences down under, but there was a catch. Becca asked me never to share her blog address, even with other co-workers. Becca was limiting her audience to only those she was interested in reaching – i.e. she filtered. Using one of Shirky’s points, Becca is doing exactly what he said, writing for her friends, but posting in public view.

The fascinating thing is, Becca doesn’t think of her blog as a public space. The question is, why? She grew up during not just the Internet age, but the Google age, where everything is searchable, and even posted her blog on Google’s Blogger platform, instantly searchable via Google. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning here. Becca is using the same principle a spy in the movies would use… Speak freely in crowds. Perhaps Becca feels private, because there is so much else going around the Internet, who cares about one girl studying in Australia? She’s lost in the murmur of the collective. Then again, perhaps she just doesn’t care.

Reading the book, Shirky makes mention of various social networks, however the question for me is not whether the organizing can be achieved (we are reasonably confident it can) but what channels are best to use and how is best to use them?

Twitter, for example, is an excellent tool, however, much of it is syndicated information. Most tweeps who discuss personal experiences  find it difficult to escape tweets about their current meal. On top of that while Twitter has over 70 million accounts there are only 15 million active tweeters (although those 15 million do send one billion tweets monthly).

Shirky goes on to discuss the speed of communication and the need to listen to the customer base. These points are both very important. For example, digital media is often an extra charge on PR billing invoices, however digital media is a necessity, not an option. Even small corporations, mom & pop’s and individual entrepreneurs need to have some knowledge of digital media to truely succeed. Phone calls, letters and, in come cases, even email are too slow. Instant messaging, tweeting and facebook posts are the new succinct modes of person-to-business communication. Shirky supports this.

Coming from a tech/geeky background, and a firm believer that social networking and digital media is the future, Shirky’s book spoke directly to my opinions and connected with my beliefs, providing support which I had internalized without evidence.

As things move forward, it is going to become increasingly important to hire a digital media expert (or many) to help manage your mobs of supporters, campaigners, friends and enemies otherwise they may organize without you.

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