Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Social computing has organizational consequences

Blogs, RSS, podcasting, open source, wikis, mash-ups. What -- if anything -- should companies make of these new technologies? Can they provide any real value?

This is what the latest report by Forrester is trying to answer - but we know what the answer is - a resounding 'yes'.

It says that 'Forrester is calling the movement created by these collaborative technologies Social Computing' -- a new social structure in which technology puts power in the hands of communities, not institutions.

Mike Gotta wrote about this back in early 2004 and his writings were a good indication of what is to come.

Organizations are now being introduced to a variety of digital tools for enabling people who are separated by time and space to communicate and collaborate on shared interests and tasks. The widespread use of some of these tools, such as instant messaging and group chat, coupled with the increasingly widespread availability of wireless access to the Internet (WiFi), have created new opportunities for using these collaboration tools by people sharing physical spaces in real time.

The use of these tools to augment face-to-face meetings has created benefits for some participants and distractions-and detractions-for others. The long-term advantages and disadvantages of these emerging uses of collaborative tools are still boiling in the pot, so to say.

Let's face it - social Computing is already transforming the Internet, the economy, and society.

This convergence of social and technology factors -- which allows consumers to communicate, create content, and share ideas -- has many forms, including blogs, RSS, social networking sites, and podcasts.

Charlene Li has a good sum up when it summarizes that three tenets will define Social Computing and alter the interactive landscape that lies between consumers and institutions:

  • innovation will shift from top-down to bottom-up
  • value will shift from ownership to experience
  • power will shift from institutions to communities
The value is this - there is a syncronicity and level of engagement between onground and online participants that I have never seen before. The communication reach is so much greater, the value added so much higher and if you think about all the people around the organization that have the opportunity to take value back to their worklives ... the geographical and temporal reach to other people I would argue is also so much greater.

When everyone is talking/writing/logging/whatevering, I think the biggest question is, 'What is happening to the authority of knowledge?

The fact that an article appears in the Britannica confers some authority on it. That an article appears in Wikipedia does not. What does? Who do I believe - the person with the higher title or the person with the better skills or expertise.

What does this mean for knowledge and power? Influence?

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