Monday, May 09, 2011

Social/New Media: Blurry Lines

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase(Article first published as Social and New Media: Blurry Lines on Technorati)

When we say social media, new media, we mean Facebook, we mean Twitter, we mean blogs. There are many, many other platforms, but those stand out. A lot of people don't realize this, but the blogosphere collectively is bigger than Facebook, just like the Chinese restaurants across America collectively are bigger than McDonald's.
"(W)e think as McDonald's as sort of the Microsoft of the dining experiences. We can think of Chinese restaurants perhaps as Linux: sort of an open source thing where ideas from one person can be copied and propagated across the entire system; that there can be specialized versions of Chinese food depending on the region. For example, in New Orleans we have Cajun Chinese food, where they serve Sichuan alligator and sweet and sour crawfish. And in Philadelphia, you have Philadelphia cheesesteak roll, which looks like an egg roll on the outside, but a cheesesteak on the inside. I was really surprised to discover that, not only in Philadelphia, but also in
Atlanta, because what had happened was that a Chinese family had moved from Philadelphia to Atlanta, and brought that with them. So, the thing is, our historical lore, because of the way we like narratives, are full of vast characters such as Howard Schultz of Starbucks and Ray Kroc with McDonald's and Asa Chandler with Coca-Cola. But it's very easy to overlook the smaller characters - oops - for example, like Lem Sen, who introduced chop suey, Chef Peng, who introduced General Tso Chicken, and all the Japanese bakers who introduced fortune cookies. So, the point of my presentation is to make you think twice, that those whose names are forgotten in history can often have had as much, if not more, impact on what we eat today."

- Jennifer 8 Lee of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles
Old media was about broadcasting. I had a TV station, and there were few TV stations, and I broadcasted my message to you, and you listened. With new media I broadcast at you, you broadcast right back at me. We might talk past each other, but that's okay.

Social media has come far over the past five years in that Facebook competes with Google itself in terms of buzz and general weight in the tech ecosystem, and at one point Google was trying to buy or bury Facebook.

But social media is still amiss. There might have been massive fragmentation, and we might have ended up with many, many smaller, more relevant audiences, but we are still better at broadcasting than at listening. Part of the fault lies with the technology behind the various social media platforms.

And there is social itself. When we are broadcasting, are we really socializing? That is partly a numbers problem. How are you going to socialize with 2,000 Facebook friends or 100,000 Twitter followers? Is Path up to something by limiting you to 50 friends?

I once asked my friend Dario Meli of Hootsuite in Spring 2010 as to where he saw social media in five years? He said at that point there will be only media. The new media, old media bifurcation will have disappeared.

Not only that, I think we are moving towards a scenario where everyone is connected to everyone else. Everyone is talking to everyone else, and is being able to do that fruitfully. The lines get more and more blurry. Human organizations that we could not have seen possible before will become possible. I am optimistic of the possibilities.
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