At the bottom of How Luther went viral: Five centuries before Facebook and the Arab spring, social media helped bring about the Reformation, an excellent essay in the latest Economist, I found this…
… and decided to leave the first comment. You can read it here.
As good as the Economist article is, for a lot of readers it may have only moved them to nod their heads and move on. It’s well written but it’s not that controversial as 2012 approaches. And, to be realistic, a lot of people may not have stopped to read through the whole thing.
To compare this to Cluetrain (which I probably didn’t hear about until 2007, when I jumped feet first into blogs), my impression is that Cluetrain would have been different from a lot of mass media and it was published in an easily read, easily accessible format. It would have captured the anger, frustration and resentment of many (if not most) consumers.
The Economist article isn’t that controversial because it’s following a wave of similar sentiment that’s been all over many media but it is different in that it gives a thoughtful look at the use of media that occurred 500 years ago. But then what does the reader do with that? Just nod and move on.
In my opinion, that’s why there are so few comments – it’s not really something that’s easy to debate because it happened so long ago and there isn’t a huge amount of evidence to verify.
Or maybe it’s just the time of day or time of year and few people felt like commenting. Who knows?
But as a follow up, your point about use of likes and reTweets is interesting, too. It leads me to think that a lot of that social media activity is automated, either by programs or by people who are just following behavioral patterns (i.e. I must Tweet every Economist article because I think that’s what my followers want to read or because I think it will make me look smart and sophisticated).
I don’t know.
Each one of those Likes, Tweets, Shares and +1’s has the potential for its own comment stream. Just like this post. And just like the million of individual conversations were had over the 95 theses. But in the web world, it makes perfect sense that The Economist could not convince readers to have the conversation on their site when it is so much easier to engage on the topic with friends or like-minded individuals through the social networks.
I do understand your frustration though, as the truly public discussion is being lost. I think one solution could be distributed social networking, where every website is its own network on that system and every blog is a user. Your recommendation or comment can be public or limited. Re-shares are consolidated and the comments by people you are connected to are highlighted. Brands might push for this as it gives them more control of their message and ends the need to create a new account on each network. I could see complaint from bloggers with advertising on their sites, as this new system would tend to eliminate posts like this one that only refer to one other node. But posts that coalesce multiple nodes would thrive more than before.
Pingback from Harold Jarche on December 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm
I think you’re missing the point, people are still commentating and having their say but instead of doing so at the source – they are instead moving the conversation to a more personal note (e.g by sharing the article on facebook their friends can discuss and comment the article there).
I think this decentralization is a good thing in most respects.
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