Saturday, June 14, 2008

What is Social Media?

"A powerful global
conversation has begun.
Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies."

(The Cluetrain Manifesto)

Social media is usually defined as online technologies and practices that people use to connect and share opinions, experiences, and knowledge with each other. The concept of social media typically involves the usage of tools and applications such as blogs, message boards, online social networks, podcasts, webcasts, Wikis, and live-stream microblogging tools to allow users to easily interact. A few prominent examples of popular social media applications today are Facebook and MySpace (social networking), YouTube (video sharing), Second Life (virtual reality), Digg (news sharing), del.ici.ous (social bookmarking), Twitter (micro-blogging), Wikipedia (reference), and Flickr (photo sharing). Participation, sharing, collaboration, and interactivity are the crucial terms in explaining the nature of new media and its impact on communication.

Social media means primarily the democratization of communication. Everyone is a potential author, contributor, and message creator in Web-based communications. User-generated content is a distinctive feature of interactive media. The content is not only created by a “collective intelligence,” it is also formed through the network of other contents. Every digital text refers to many other documents by using a number of links embedded in the text. This hypertextuality results in a fragmented digital text whose meaning co-exists simultaneously within a system of other texts.

Social media also signifies a transformation of the old two-way communication model and the creation of a new all-way dispersive communication model. This model has been developed from the poetics of post-modernism. The concept of a traditional author (or a message creator) is deconstructed and replaced by a collective authorship. The individual cedes control over the communicative process and its final product. Message recipients are no longer passive consumers but active participants in the content creation.

The nature of new media is participatory. This is a radical decentralization and a shift of “power to the edges.” “The divide between the publishers and the public is collapsing. This turns mass media upside down. It creates media of the masses.” (Baker and Green, 2008). Consequently, some of the key words that define the nature of the new media are networking, syndication, collaboration, openness, real-time discussion, engagement, community building.


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