Rise of Social Capital and Media Activism

Posted on 20 June 2009 by JasonK

Until very recently the trade-off between richness and reach with media and communications tools on the internet has seen mixed results but we are very close to some exciting breakthroughs.

This means news is old when it gets through the media process as savvy consumers have already engaged to some extent in a myriad of ways (mostly online) and this alters the secondary ripples and impacts as well.

The difference between a one to many message and a conversation will continue to be endlessly debated across a range of media and platforms.  It has become much clearer that the overlap between micro-blogging (clogging ?) tools, mobile phones, other user generated content and mainstream media is now producing social dividends and all kinds of unintended and positive consequences.

Social capital has its own momentum and we see everything from instant tweets on earthquakes and elections to a scary washing machine with 15 thousand fans on facebook. Most mainstream media is filtered by the editorial process to become more of a news product. This is good for manicured medium but for a real-time news ticker social media tools are raising the stakes and in a very good way.

Twitter, Facebook blogs and other instant commentary now allows real time crowdsourcing for the equivalent of a live cross on camera – only better online for the most part. I was reminded of some of this when I heard a news item on radio about how Twitter had delayed a crucial update so as not to interrupt the flow of news from Iran.

That this was a news item is interesting in itself but ironically the Twitter maintenance had been and gone by the time the news got on the radio and that was very stale news to the Twitterati who had all moved on hours before.

There were three insightful perspectives I took notice of this week regarding the rise of social capital in these ways.

David MacGregor captured some of these dimensions reproduced below: (Thanks David)

“The social media phenomenon really does change my perception of the way forward. I have less and less regard for brand messages that are virtuoso – you know the kind I mean – the spectacular set pieces of yesteryear, film making fetishism in microcosm. Today I am more like to be receptive to messages that have far greater relevance and, oftentimes, utility – which might be expressed by the facility for me to understand more or engage more with the message personally.

The scale of my engagement is relative. The simple facility to comment or offer and opinion is sometimes sufficient and demonstrates the thought that I, like other people, want to be heard and acknowledged, rather than simply being yelled at or sung a silky siren song by spruikers.”

David writes very well on this an many other related topics. He also notes that all of this discussion is much less compartmentalized than it used to be. And that is a good thing in my view.

“I find it difficult to separate marketing, advertising and brands from society as whole. A challenge for business is surely to overcome the ‘them and us’ model of mass communications to really open the way for more inclusive dialogues.”

Nat Torkington on National Radio caught my ears with his comments on the role of Twitter and other micro-blogging formats in Iran. What was particularly good was the way he managed to make “secure open web proxies” sound interesting and also kept the listeners from being distracted by the mechanics in that wonderful mellifluous mode of his.

Less mediation is also highly attractive to celebrities. Micro blogging of tweets via re-tweeting has helped make a difference and we will continue to hear about the ramifications of all this.

TN: Technology with Nat Torkington from Thursday Technology expert and  Nat Torkington discusses online dating scams as well as Twitter’s role in the Iranian election protests.(duration:14mins 28secs)

The impact of these new technologies on groups and individuals is sounding a bit more like the second wave of alternative media as foreshadowed all those years ago by Noam Chomsky. In a sense we have now the tools to manufacture dissent.

Clay Shirky manages to summarise many of these key points about the rise of social capital and media activism over at TED Talks.

Clay says:

“New technologies are enabling new kinds of cooperative structures to flourish as a way of getting things done in business, science, the arts and elsewhere, as an alternative to centralized and institutional structures, which he sees as self-limiting.

In his writings and speeches he has argued that “a group is its own worst enemy.”
Shirky is author of Here Comes Everybody.

One point Clay makes is the increase in professional amateurs – something we wrote about some time back and was a topic for another great TED talk by Charles Leadbeater which was  called “The rise of the amateur professional” see the 19minute video on TED. Charles said

“Passionate amateurs, using new tools, are creating products and paradigms that companies can’t.”

If the video embed doesn’t display on your device try this TED link for Clay Shirky.

As Clay notes we are watching “The end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics.” How to cross pollinate conversations and mass media in real time. We now have a “many to many”  communications channel.

Note: Local TV stations has all improved their websites recently as they finally begin to understand they are less TV and multi-channel amplicasting is bigger ironically just as viewership on their broadcasts drop – their website traffic is going up and changing the business.

Amplification of tweets gives rise to far more authentic news sources than we have seen – ever!  Citizen reporting has flow on effects and when those stories follow the news we begin to see social transformation.

Asynchronous media and the amplification of all the surrounding content eco-systems is a big deal and we should be using this for good connections. Consumers are producers are consumers. The network itself is ubiquitous and omnipresent.

There are no single messages any more and media participation is higher than ever. Media revolution is here.

What do you think ? My twitter ID is @dialogCRM feel free to tweetback.

As always you can tweet this below and leave a comment or reply to the tweet for this post on Twitter. You can also engage directly with the three / four sources I have used today.

  • To follow and engage with David on Twitter go to @joegreenz
  • To follow and engage with Nat on Twitter go to @gnat
  • To follow and engage Nat on Twitter go to @CShirky
  • To follow and engage withTED on Twitter @TEDchris

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