Information and Social Media

Posted by on Dec 30, 2008 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments



pic c/o Jacksrandomrubble

Energised by Daria's post warning us of cheap sociology in the blogosphere, I wanted to get this off my chest tonight

While I don't want to enter the year being all negative (OK, I know it's a bit of a habit and I haven't got round to explaining why I think Tribes is the wrong way round, yet…), here's another conceptual mistake I think we could all do well to leave behind in 2008:

Social Media – blogging, tweating, facebooking and so on  – is NOT [primarily] about information (what we write, say or read – just as advertising and all those things we criticise are not either); real communication is gestural in nature – it's about what you do and what you see others doing.

Of course, it seems like the crafting the information bit is important and of course we'd all like to believe that the information processing bit shapes those big and well-considered opinions we carry around. Sad thing is the info bit comes second in terms of shaping our behaviour: most of our thinking is after the fact (as Eliot Aronson puts it, we are more rationalizing than rational); most of our opinions attempts to make sense of what we've done not the wise and considered precursor to action.

So, this new landscape can't be about information and broad- [or micro-]casting, albeit in a way that's less wasteful or more credible; it's not about advocacy and brand advocates making the case on behalf of your brand; it's not about the 1-in-10 or any other minority group who will tell the rest of us what to do; it's not about "talk" or WoM or any of these poor substitutes for the old TV transmission model – sending messages out to change minds in order to (somehow, eventually) change behavour. It's not media at all (as in a medium down which we can send information to folk)

It's about people. People watching and listening and interacting with other people. [That's why Hugh's championing of the Social Object/Gesture/Marker is spot on]

It is at heart profoundly human.

And not informational.

[Because for that to be true we'd have to be more cybermen than human]


  1. Simon Kendrick
    December 31, 2008

    Does your “gestural” also incorporate the broadcasting of minutiae/echo chamber/noise – a form of communication that some (many?) people filter out?
    To my mind, on a sidenote, gestural forms only a proportion of social media interactions and is most powerful in the way that by asking you ‘how are you doing’ one is a) asking how you are and b) reaffirming the relationship by subliminally saying that I like you”
    But nonetheless completely agree that calling social media primarily about information is a fallacy.

  2. Andy
    January 6, 2009

    Some resonance for me in your comment about the gestural nature of communication with the work of Ralph Stacey on complex responsive processes of relating (as a way of thinking about change in human systems).
    Patterns of interaction producing nothing but further patterns of interaction but subtly different each time leading to the potential for change.
    PS Patricia Shaw has also applied this thinking along with Improv to work on Org Change (worth a look)