The Important Difference Between Media and Social Media (Debate Edition)

Over at It’s Not a Lecture, David Wescott totally gets why the Democratic presidential debates last night show that the debate over whether or not we should just call social media “media” now is bogus:

I hope this debate serves as the wake-up call for the traditional media. This is why we can’t yet say “social media” is “all media.” When all media is truly social, the most prominent and important questions will be raised. That’s why the YouTube debates were so effective and so important. It’s only a matter of time – and not much time, at that – before they become the norm and not the exception.

Social media is about the democratization of communication, turning political communication into hot media once again, as opposed to the coolness of the traditional media. The chattering classes and talking heads were made very, very uncomfortable during the YouTube debates this cycle, especially the Republican YouTube debate. It makes people like the Gibsons, Matthews and Russerts of the world uncomfortable when the people begin to ask questions that really matter to them, as opposed to whatever the Village consensus is.

A true Open Source Politics looks a lot like the YouTube debates: people ask questions meaningful to them. However, one major modification would be the incorporation of a Digg-like system to filter the questions. I place much more faith in the American Public to filter the questions than people like Charles Gibson or Tim Russert. Open Source Debates are a lot more fun than the Perez Hilton/TMZ-style debates we’ve been getting. Run the filters on the screen in real-time, along with a dedicated Twitter feed with a cloud-style visualization. Link it to maps, so we can geolocate opinion trends (there’s one way to get past the whole Red State-Blue state bullshit).

The debates might be more chaotic and frightening, but they’d be a hell of a lot better than what we got last night. Social media isn’t the same as traditional media. There is a substantial qualitative difference, and an Open Source Politics needs to make certain the politicians and the public are aware of this.

PS, David runs a really great blog on Social Media, which is a regular read for me now. You can also follow him on Twitter.

EDITED TO ADD (4/17/08, 1pm): A lot of people have noticed last night’s hackery. And when those people have access to cheap and easily available social media tools, well, lots more people begin to notice (h/t AmericaBlog):

1 Comment

Filed under Activism, Elections 2008, Media, Open Source, Politics, Politics 2.0

One response to “The Important Difference Between Media and Social Media (Debate Edition)

  1. Thanks, Christopher. The corporate media is really working through the Kubler-Ross “five stages of death” with social media, don’t you think?

    Come to think of it, that would be a good blog post… 😉

    I think 10Questions is the next step for the Youtube Debates. That has the voting option you’re talking about. People are still looking at ways to game the system as opposed to letting democracy of communication do its thing, but we’re getting there.

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