Web 2.0 Blog – Discovering Innovation Opportunities using Social Media

Archive for January 2009

The wikipedia entry has been updated since I wrote this post and now clearly seems define social media as content. So what about the technology? Can we call it social technology?

Is the technology used to post, read, sharecontent, improve navigation and relevance by making use of user behavior and input, the same as the content generated content itself? Are both of those the same as the interaction of users with that technology?

I looked at the wikipedia entry for social media and it seems to mix these three items (technology,content and interaction). It says:

“Social Media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and “building” of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).”
Then later it gives examples of “social media applications.”

So based on this, social media is a tool used by consumers to create content, an activity that integrates technology and social interaction AND it is the content generated by the interaction.

I feel it can’t be all three and that this should be clarified to help people understand the evolution of the internet and the new technologies and software. Also it would be useful to distinction those of us who create technology solutions vs those of us who create user interaction strategies for organizations.

I think we should start using the term social technology as:

1. Technology which makes use of input and behavior of the users of the technology to enhance its relevance, usability, content, navigation or function. Often this refers to tools which are used in web 2.0 or social media efforts.

Of course where does that leave the definition of social media? When people talk about social media they seem to be referring to the general methods to display user generated content. For instance “Blogs are social media.” But a blog is a general method to publish and invoke discussion. It is not a specific technology. Let’s do a quick thought experiment to illustrate this. We can imagine a large classroom blackboard being used as the host for a blog whose audience is only meant to be those in the class. An article could be published, comments put up, tags manually updated, and even a separate board if you like to match tags to content. Any blogger would recognize this as an internal blog. We also now have video blogs which users very different technology than text based. Let’s also imagine a pure video blog which uses no text and its tags and searches are audio based.

A text blog, a pure video blog and our blackboard blog share the same methodology to solicit feedback from a community but do not share common technology. So a blog is really a social media method, not a specific piece of technology.

Social media seems to be a collection of methodologies for sharing and discussing information as well as navigating and searching for information. This raises another question which is not covered in the current wikipedia article. Should mining of social media data to improve media experiences such as shopping, searching and giving related information? I think the answer is yes even though this is a substantial bifurcation of social media into its seen and unseen elements. Most people do not realize that google uses the behavior of its users to improve its search but I think google results are a form of social media. Here is the test: If you didn’t have the social input, would you have the results? In google’s case: No. Not the same results at any rate and these results are the reason it has won out in the search engine competition. So in plainer terms, crowdsourced content or ranking of content would also be social media. (I would argue ranking of content is content btw.)

Since I first posted this, Deb Lavoy challenged me that social media is actually what happens when technology enables collaboration. And conversations are simple collaborations. I think she is right, but still in the vernacular most people still refer to the actual methods as social media. We comprised on a slide which gives both. The technology enable collaboration definition seems the most powerful yet the more I think about it.

As for social technology, I really didn’t just make it up. (Well I did but then I found I wasn’t the first by any means.) There seems to be ample precedent both in published books and popular blogs to start use of the term more commonly. Below is a list of references I found which use the phrase:

In the news: A degree in Social Technology See also the school’s site.

Reference Web site
Forrestor Research: The Growth Of Social Technology Adoption

Blogs using social technology as a term:
Social Technology Innovation by Alex Vorbau
The impossible dream – Social Technology
Social Technology
The Pattern of Social Technology Evolution
Leveraging the Future of Social Technology

Books using social technology as a term:
Perverse Incentives: The Neglect of Social Technology in the Public Sector
By Theodore Caplow
Published by Praeger, 1994
Item notes: pbk. : alk. paper
Original from the University of Michigan
Digitized Aug 24, 2007
ISBN 0275949338, 9780275949334

Innovation and Social Process: A National Experiment in Implementing Social Technology
By Louis G. Tornatzky
Contributor Louis G. Tornatzky
Published by Pergamon Press, 1980
ISBN 0080263038, 9780080263038
225 pages

The Social Technology of Organization Development
By Wyatt Warner Burke, Harvey A. Hornstein
Compiled by Wyatt Warner Burke, Harvey A. Hornstein
Published by University Associates, 1972
Original from the University of Michigan
Digitized Mar 21, 2007
ISBN 0883901269, 9780883901267
340 pages

The Social Technology of Applied Research
By Alexander J. Matejko
Published by Sadhna Prakashan, 1975
Original from the University of Michigan
Digitized Feb 6, 2008
194 pages

There does seem to be a competing definition which I found in..

2. Technology which is entirely in the public domain and does not have restraints or restrictions on its use.

I found this in Human Rights & Social Technology: The New War on Discrimination By Rainer Knopff, Thomas Flanagan. I don’t think this is a popular or even solid use of the term and better terms have come to descriptions various public licensing arrangements.

Now to make the case in Wikipedia.. Anybody with me?

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