I have been making the argument lately in my talks that what is beginning to happen (in a more general sense) is that the web is finally starting to fulfill its promise as a platform to support and extend conversations. I know this isn’t news to all of us, but its emergence recently to a larger audience is very interesting in several ways. As an example, I’ve been using a handful of youtube videos that at first glance seem insignificant, but upon further investigation leads you down a path towards the discovery of rich online conversations. I’ve been showing “Charlie bit my finger – again” as an illustration of how something as simple as a home video can generate not only millions of views (53 million of them), but more interestingly, thousands of comments and video responses.
My claim is that this activity is at the heart of the ever expanding understanding of the web as a platform for extending conversations. I am asserting that these are real conversations that happen in real time on a global scale. If you’ve been paying attention to the merging of technology and politics the last few weeks you may have noticed things like Current TV’s Hack the Debate mash-up, the explosion of media supported embedded video across the web of candidate interviews, and the Election Twitter mash-up site. This to me is an indication that what was recently seen as a waste of time is being viewed with new lenses.
I have an Op/Ed piece for the Christian Science Monitor appearing today that attempts to make the following as the central point:
It’s easy to criticize the rise of participatory social media as a giant waste of time. And it’s true that a fair amount of what’s being created is adolescent. But that criticism misses the point: This trend is setting the stage for greater long-term engagement. It’s an indicator that people are working to find new ways to collaborate and to be part of something larger than they are individually. The sheer immensity of the participation is the story.
No matter if you agree that the social web is a place that supports open conversation, open learning, and open connections you should see the fact that popular media is getting it. Once the mainstream embraces what we’ve been watching for a half a dozen years (or more) it will become the norm to connect with, until recently, unconnected friends and family in places like Facebook and Twitter. I think the entire space is set to explode and I think it is a good thing. Thoughts?