Thursday, 21 January 2010

Snuffalupagus and Social Media

So. I see you're trying a new format tonight. 



Well, I get these ideas, see? But when I start to write them down, they just sound flat. And then I lose interest in writing them, because if I'm not really jazzed about writing them, who's going to be interested in reading them? So I thought that having an imaginary friend to bounce these ideas off of would liven things up a bit. You know, make things more interesting. Plus, 70s pop-culture references play well these days. Disney just bought the marketing rights to the Muppets, you know.


Yes. Is that your response, or are you seeking clarification?

Not sure.

Plus, I always wondered if I could actually write dialogue. It seemed like hard work in my mind.

Many things do.


Also, sometimes, like in live conversations, I need those helper words to keep the flow going. There are people who pay money to learn how to do this. I'm trying to teach myself, to save money.

So I'm not getting paid, then. 

No, you're a figment

Says you. So what were you going to call this post? 

Originally, something along the lines of "What Jacques Ellul can teach us about social marketing." But then I balked, because I thought I'd never get any traffic because I doubt Jacques Ellul is a popular search term.

You're probably right. Google analytics could tell you. 

No doubt.

So, title, aside, what was your point? 

Well, I've been seeing and reading a lot of research lately about web behavior and user behavior and how these to interact and influence each other. I really think that if you want to understand how to succeed with any particular medium, you need to understand the building blocks of that medium - how it's composed. Basic McLuhan stuff. The medium never stopped being the message.

Go on...

See, "electronic communications" in McLuhan's day referred to TV and Radio. These were analog technologies. They were biological at their root. What we're dealing with now, with what I'll call "digital communications," is something else entirely.

How so?

Look at the technology that's driving it all - it's binary. Code. Trillions of transistors saying "yes" and "no" but never anything in between. I think you can make the argument that this kind of dynamic reflects the kinds of attitudes we see now in our media  and public discourse - increasing polarization; an inability to "come together," if you will. That's where the Jacques Ellul thing comes in - that the character of the technology determines how it will be transmitted and received.It seems that every question facing the public now very quickly degenerates into polar opposites shouting at each other. It's either/or, not "and."

No "and"

Right. No "and." Another working title for this entry was going to be "Whither 'And'" or "Where does 'and' live?." But c'mon, I'd like people to read this.

I'm reading it. 

You don't have a choice.

But, look at the studies that have come out about the younger folks - they're online and connected every waking hour. And they have no problem connecting on bigger issues and mobilizing large numbers of people.

True. But you also see a lot of instant, unthinking judgements as well. I'm not saying that in this new way of thinking you can't have meaningful dialogue or accomplish things. But I think you need to understand that you'll need to come at it in a different way. And looking for the middle ground - the compromise - may not be the right way anymore. Electronic communications are instant and unthinking. It's biological, too, but more like an amoeba responding to a poke.

That's what I feel we've lost as our culture has moved from analog to digitial culture. Analog is hard work. It has a tangible, physical element that doesn't exist in our world anymore. It implies compromise. The end result may be the same in the digital realm, but you learn differently. You respect the end product more, I believe, when you've rolled up your sleeves and gotten your hands dirty or marked up tape with a china marker.

Now you sound like an old fogey.

I know. But I do see encouraging signs. So many user interfaces now blend the efficiency of the digital with the elegance of analog controls. there's probably still a long way to go.

Question: Weren't we talking about social media? 

Yes, yes we were. But my mind tends to wander. Well, not wander. It takes a lot of tangents. The stops along the way are related. There is a thread, but not everyone sees it.

Ok. I hope i get better at this. 

You will. See, work stuff bleeds into home stuff. And it's natural for me to think about how I'm doing my work and how my brain works while I'm working. There's the work, and the meta work. And now you get to read about it all.

Oh, lucky me.


neil p said...

I was at a study day recently where a very persuasive art historian argued that students will look at a 35mm slide and a digital projection of the same painting quite differently, focusing on different parts of the painting depending on the format -- even though it's exactly the same artwork -- and focusing for less time on the digital copy than the analogue one. The ease with which digital images are produced somehow invites the viewer to take it less seriously, and to make less attempt to process it. And we've all seen how moronic the 'have your say' comments are on sites such as Comment is Free on the Guardian, whereas the printed responses to the original printed articles in the paper will be witty and informed.

CdV said...

interesting. wow. more indications that "digital can't do depth?" what we gain in clarity we lose in depth. too often the discussions about technology focus on what we gain. i'd like to start thinking about what we lose. there's always a price. but we don't always pay up front.

Justin Kownacki said...

I agree with Neil P's comment: digital implies things like "cheap," "amateur," "half-baked" and "easily ignored." What we've gained in the allegedly democratic creation and promotion of media, we've lost in the hierarchical understanding of what *deserves* to be noticed.

Not that I'm a proponent on old-boy networks of gatekeepers. But one upside to the old way of doing things was that the public always knew what it was supposed to look at. When ANYONE can make ANYTHING, we lack the signals to specify which works are worth our precious time.

By the way, sorry to say, but it's actually Snuffleupagus.

Clay deVoute said...

i thought the spelling was odd. but it was late when i wrote it.

more to the point - if digital creation brings us all back to square one, how do people who have grown up digital (as per Mr. Tapscott) determine what's important? How do they learn what matters?

kids today.