Social Media Revolution
Welcome to the revolution. Enter a new world of defining features that has changed the face of how we as singular people and as a society view ourselves and each other. This new face is social media and, in my opinion, this new embodiment of cultures features a defining piece that makes social media the platform it is; and that’s interactivity. In this article I will look at what interactivity brings to social media, and how it has given birth to an essential new world of social media.
First you have to look at the new form of culture that social media has created through technology so that it’s features can be more easily understood. Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist. Ever heard of it? Neither had I until recently when I was looking through TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) which ‘is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate ideas worth spreading" (Wikipedia.org)
On her video, Case spoke of a “new version of Homo sapiens” (Ted.com) from where technology use to only expand to limitations of the physical like tools, technology now moves into the mental self where she coined a term the “Mary Poppins” (Ted.com) technology. For example, humans can now store as much information as they like into their laptop, and the laptop wont get any heavier, nor will it get lighter if you take information, photos, word documents etc out of it; a never ending storage for information. Not only that we start to create a “second self” (Ted.com) through social networkings like Facebook and Twitter, this becomes an extension of who we are as humans, and as we create this other self you have to maintain it like you do with yourself. This information becomes a part of who you are, and when you lose a bit, you start to feel an emotional loss. Through technology we have minimised the use of space and time, because I could call from Perth, Western Australia where my best friend in Brisbane, Queensland would answer and we could have a conversation, I take away the space between me and my best friend, and with the time zone difference of about three hours I’ve also cut through time; though I physically haven’t traveled through the space or time, with the use of technology my voice and ‘other self‘ has (Ted.com). This just isn’t a stand alone for phones, Case continues that with social networking you can have simultaneous time; because your Facebook page is always there, different people are communicating to you at different times, in different places, yet all on your Wall or messages, and you can answer at different times in different places as well, while at the same time looking through emails of other messages, while at the same time looking through tweets, while you’re looking for past information that you have gathered and stored (Ted.com). This feeling of connection and at any moment you could connect to someone or a mass group of people is a platform that has created a new powerful culture, and all through this new platform social media has features which intertwine with it self, but to try to stifle through it we should look at the interactivity.
Interacting with others is a natural thing, every creature on this planet interacts in some shape or form of verbal and non-verbal movements to other creatures. For humans, stories were told orally to each other, where to get a message across you could only stand on a physical platform in your communal area and speak; it wasn’t until the invention of the Printing Press in the 17th Century could ideas, messages, thoughts, politics and more spread further among communities (Brown, 2011). The first commercially successful telephones came in the late 19th century (Wikipedia.org), and the growth of interacting with one another has continued to grow into more convenient, and effective ways. It should be to no surprise that one of the defining features of social media is the fact that it has participation and interaction. Participation ‘...encourages contributions and content creations...’ (Cohen, Salazar, and Barkat 2009, 383) by other people and groups which blurs the line between the ‘...once-traditional distinction between producers and consumers of media’ (Cohen, Salazar, and Barkat 2009, 383), while interaction looks at the ‘people who share content’ (Cohen, Salazar, and Barkat 2009, 383). Together those ideas have been redeveloped as the technology grew, and with social networking sites interaction is the key. It brings a powerful force with social and political aspects. In social networking sites you become connected to whoever you want; on websites like Facebook you can choose who you want to be on your friends list, a connection and interaction of people who live in different places and are on it at different times. Facebook is a part of the new world that has refined the term ‘community’, because the definition of community use to base around your geographical locality (Brown, 2011), yes, the Printing Press Revolution also expanded the idea of the community, but never before in such a size has the idea of community span to an always connected group of people in a ‘virtual community’ (Reference.com) On my Facebook page I have a virtual community of 224 friends, that includes my family that has Facebook, on an actual day to day basis, I physically interact with on 4-10 of my actual friends that I have on Facebook. Virtual interaction now doesn’t just have to be chatting to each other, on Facebook I can be interacting by ‘Liking’ a status, looking at their status’s, looking at their photo’s, tagging someone and commenting on something. I’m not talking to them but at the same time I’m interacting with their virtual self, or a ‘second self’. The use of interaction has not just been for idle chit chat or Liking a status, it has created a new forum for news. A good example of this can be seen in Twitter, where in a 140 characters or less you write what you’re doing, thinking or feeling, and in a matter of seconds it’s out there for people to read. This may seem like a trivial idea but it turned into something much more. In 2009 Evan Williams, Cofounder of Twitter spoke on TED about how the people, through their own interaction created an informational feed of real time events and first hand news; something that they as creators didn’t even anticipate.(ted.com) Looking at more recent news, were the Egypt uprisings this year, where by using social networks like Twitter not only helped the people in Egypt organise together for protesting, but it also spread the news of what was happening to everyone around the world (FastCompany.com). Every detail given by first hand accounts, strangers the other side of the world supporting the movement by giving reassuring tweets; things like this would have seen unbelievable only fifteen years ago. Though there are now official news channels that give tweets, you don’t have to be an official reporter to bring the news to the people. Videos and tweets by unknown strangers have been used in news reports, especially breaking news, because reporters can’t always be there at the scene when the unexpected happens, but anyone who was there that had a camera one their phone and internet access can upload the event themselves. I found out that Osama Bin Laden was dead by Facebook statuses; situations like these are showing the new form is people informing the people in an instant, which is creating a new way for people to interact, something that is changing the world we live in. Being apart of the “biggest information bang” (Nicholas et al. 2003) that society has ever seen is a daunting to businesses, because in a world where people can get information about the world on a tweet or update status, where if we want information we “just Google it”, where we have a continuous instant form of getting knowledge, at looking at things, buying anything in just a click has created a new process of competition.
Because of the fast pace, continuous interacting, the fight to gain attention of the user has become a harder job, this is because I person can click away from your business, news channel, advertisement whenever they want to. We have become a form of ‘interactive consumers’ (Nicholas et al. 2003, 29) where it’s more than just clicking ‘buy’, an interactive consumer serves ‘...a more closer engagement...[with]...a much greater degree of two-way interactivity...’, because people want choice, they choose how, when and where they will engage with a brand (Nicholas et al. 2003, 29) they want to be shown what can help them, and how it can interact. ‘...[T]he brand has to deliver far more than before by way of incentives and rewards in return for consumers’ attention and dollars...’(NspireNow.com). This is just in the way of business and promotion, even now for television, and for entertainment interaction is the key.
During the lecture on social media interaction we looked at a Q&A excerpt, where during the show tweets were popping up of people giving their opinion or commenting on what was happening on the show at the time. This is another form of consumer interactivity because to help keep the viewers watching, you make the audience feel like that they are a part of the discussion, along with the curiosity to see if their tweet will be seen on the screen. This is something that I think much of the students felt when the lecture was happening, most people were looking to see what they wrote would be seen on the powerpoint screen. The feeling of being a part of something holds something close to having that community feel again, and having that further interaction with the people who will see that tweet; because even if you don’t know them, you have entered their lives for a brief second where they could agree, or disagree with the tweet you placed during the show. All of this surrounds this idea of interaction, and being a part of something bigger than yourself.
The 21st Century is bringing a new world of distinguishing features of technology growth, and social media. Through this essay I looked at this form of new technology, something that’s faster, better, more compact, more universal. People talk about the rush of technology, but something is so human about this technology, because it surrounds interaction; interaction is what makes social media, and it’s and old concept. Brian Solis, Principal of Future Works once said, “Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology,” (AnsonaAlex.com). This is true, because humans crave for interaction, we want a community, a tribe, a place to belong; that’s always existed, it’s just now it’s on a larger, instant and virtual scale. That’s why it’s social media, because you become a part of something bigger than yourself, the technology is becoming an attachment of ourselves so that we may be a part of more. This need to be a part of something has always been around, and that’s why in my opinion, interactivity is what makes social media, well, social media; so come and join the revolution.
- Amber Case: We Are All Cyborgs Now via Ted.com (accessed September 14, 2011)
- How Social Media Accelerated the Uprising in Egypt by E.B. Boyd (accessed September 15, 2011)
- TED (Conference) (accessed September 15, 2011)
- Top 20 Social Media Quotes of All Time by Anson Alexander (accessed September 17, 2011)
- Virtual community (accessed September 15, 2011)
- Cohen, Hart., Salazar, and Barkat. 2009. Screen Media and Arts: An Introduction to Concepts and Practices. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Nicholas, David., Dobrowolski, Withey, Russell, et al. 2003. Digital information consumers, player and purchasers: Information seeking behaviour in a new digital interactive environment. Bradford: Aslib Proceedings
- Brown, D. (2011) Lecture 3: Print and Community: The technology of imagined communities. Retrieved from Ideas In Action lecture from August 8, at Murdoch University: 1 (accessed September 14, 2011)
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