Having tried on a number of occasions to argue with clients and friends about social media, social computing, citizen journalism and their collective impact on how we are talking and creating differently, I have more often than not been met by blank stares. I suspect it is the same genre of blank stare that faced people who made a passionate case ten years ago about the new 'paradigm' (They likely used that beleaguered word.) to which email, e-commerce and webcasts gave birth. Evidently, there are many clients and even colleagues who don't seem to get it.
So, why the incredulity? Well, a light went on the other day when I was scanning some posts on Alexandra Samuel's blog --Social Signal -- that linked me to the online Netsquared conference. I parsed the posts and chats and realized I was labouring to understand what was actually being said . . . a problem I often have whenever I read posts by bloggers on blogging. (Let me say that I learn a great deal from Alexandra even if I sometimes need a 'Blogging for Dummies' book beside my keyboard or phone as I read or speak with her.)
I'll admit it . . . I don't fully understand the infrastructure of 'tags' and 'tagging', am fuzzy about 'tag clouds', know too little about how wiki's work, prefer the word 'taxonomy' to 'folksonomy', know the function of RSS but wouldn't know how to use it, and find 'del.ici.ous' (Do I have the periods in the right place?) pointless. So am I, a relatively active professional and personal blogger, and all those incredulouous corporate communications types, simply dense or a Luddite?
Frankly, I don't think so. The language of many who are enagaged and passionate about social media production has becomie increasingly insular, self-referential and, dare I say it, almost cultish. The language of Web 2.0 is unnecessarily obscure . . . almost as if some bloggers who blog about blogging are satisifed just to speak to each other about it, and not proselytize in an idiom that actually explains and teaches.
Those of us who believe social media and social computing strategies should increasingly stand side-by-side with traditional communication program approaches will have to find a lexis to describe the technology components that encourages abductive (a lovely word I learned today at Rotman Business School conference on creativity which means 'the logic of what could be') reasoning about these new models among audiences. Cute terms like 'tag clouds' and 'folksonomy' simply push people away.
When the language of social media creation becomes less self-referential, less murky, more self-evident, then we will have an easier time convincing organizations and companies of the logic and merit of engaging in the online conversation.