Wrapping My Head Around Social Media – Part 1

(Cross posed at edSocial Media) As I begin to blog here at edSocialMedia, I’m going to show how I began to start to wrap my head around Social Media. 

I’m the Director of Technology at a K-12 Independent School.  Part of my job is to keep up with current trends in technology and apply them to education.  Pre-2005, most of the time I did this through magazines, books, listservs, and our local NYC Technology Educators (NYCIST). 

Then I saw Will Richardson speak at our yearly New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Technology Educators Conference.  I had published a static web site since 1998 for professional and personal use, but this was the first time I realized that there were a lot of other people out there who were doing the same through blogs, and I could learn from them.

cluetrain-ook-midIn 2005, I started reading Will’s blog, and adding blogs to my bloglines account.  I found Stephen Downes’ OL Daily through Will and found a link to this presentation: On Being Radical.  In Downes’ presentation, he described the web site and then book, The Cluetrain Manifesto.  I immediately surfed over to Amazon.com and bought it. 

I remember to this day reading the first chapter of The Cluetrain Manifesto, Internet Apocalypso.  I got off the subway at 79th street and kept reading as I walked the few blocks to school — I could not put it down. I felt as though the lens from which I viewed the world was shifting.  Here are a few paragraphs at the end from that first chapter that I read that day:

In fact, the news gets better from here on out. And the first bit of news is that this isn’t about us and them. It’s about us. Them don’t exist. Not really. Corporations are legal fictions, willing suspensions of disbelief. Pry the roof off any company and what do you find inside? The Cracker Jack prize is ourselves, just ordinary people. We come in all flavors: funny, cantankerous, neurotic, compassionate, avaricious, generous, scheming, lackadaisical, brilliant, and a million other things. It’s true that the higher up the food chain you go, the more likely you are to encounter the arrogant and self-deluded, but even top management types are mostly harmless when you get to know them. Given lots of love, some even make good pets.

Inside companies, outside companies, there are only people. All of us work for organizations of some sort, or we’re peddling something. All of us pay the mortgage or the rent. We all buy shoes and books and food and time online, plus the occasional Beanie Baby for the kid. More important, all of us are finding our voices once again. Learning how to talk to one another. Slowly recovering from a near-fatal brush with zombification after watching Night of the Living Sponsor reruns all our lives.

Inside, outside, there’s a conversation going on today that wasn’t happening at all five years ago and hasn’t been very much in evidence since the Industrial Revolution began. Now, spanning the planet via Internet and World Wide Web, this conversation is so vast, so multifaceted, that trying to figure what it’s about is futile. It’s about a billion years of pent-up hopes and fears and dreams coded in serpentine double helixes, the collective flashback déjà vu of our strange perplexing species. Something ancient, elemental, sacred, something very very funny that’s broken loose in the pipes and wires of the twenty-first century.

Every time I read that again I sit back and think, wow,  I wish I could communicate ideas like that.   The role of the Internet as the medium providing human to human communications again.   Communication that is two way.  The age of mass media control is over. 

If you have never read it, I highly recommend taking a look at The Cluetrain Manifesto.  It predicted the social media revolution in 1999. 

What was the first time you really saw social media changing the world around you?

* Photo from Momentary Glimpse on Flickr

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One thought on “Wrapping My Head Around Social Media – Part 1

  1. Friendster really changed my personal life when it first came out. Linking to people was my first step towards social media.

    Wiki’s changed the way I worked with others in our Tech Department. So efficient!

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