MarComedy: Don’t make me laugh

For what tickles my fancy in media, communications and life in general.

Its All Greek To Me

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I recently came across a posting by Boyd Neil on Hill & Knowlton‘s corporate blog. Boyd is the VP of their corporate communications practice and is arguing that social media is facing a language problem. The problem (for him and indeed me) is that social media mavens have created a new lexicon to describe their technology and activities. As a result,

“The language of many who are engaged and passionate about social media has become increasingly insular, self-referential and, dare I say it, almost cultish. The language of Web 2.0 is unnecessarily obscure…almost as if some bloggers who blog about blogging are satisfied just to speak to one another about it, and not proselytize in an idiom that actually explains and teaches.”Rather than harp on with a trite Tower of Babel reference (oops), I prefer to look at this in very practical terms. Web 2.0 has tremendous potential to revolutionize human communication. Indeed, an argument could be made that it already has. But it is in danger of becoming bogged down by a secret society mentality where knowledge and power is the exclusive domain of the enlightened. I share Boyd’s frustration.

Being new to the social media experiment, I am aware that I face a learning curve. I feel like a tourist armed with a phrase book – barely able to order a coffee without tripping over myself. I suppose the largest issue is that, as Boyd rightly points out, social media practitioners are in danger of scaring away the mainstream with this linguistic wall they have erected. I doubt whether this is deliberate or even if those who would be found guilty are even conscious of their faults. But the result is the same – a (growing?) perception that the technology is inaccessible, the practitioners are protectionist and it’s just better left to the techies and computer geeks. Encouraging signs can be found in the adoption rates among younger people and easy to use tools like this site. It may be troubling for companies who wish to remain relevant but are confused by the medium and its implications (I suppose this is part of the problem for Boyd), but there are certainly many out there who are willing to break through the barriers.

Language is somewhat unique in that it is both media and medium. It is the content and the delivery mechanism. But it needs to be accessible to be relevant, understood and influential. Language is only as good as the ways in which we can effectively use it and there are whole industries (PR, marketing, advertising) that try figure out the best ways to do this, and individuals who leverage language professionally (politicians, lawyers, and those who work in the industries mentioned). I’ll end by echoing Boyd’s call for the social media vanguard to become less self-referential and more accessible. This is the road forward for realizing the full potential and influence of Web 2.0

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

June 5, 2006 at 6:16 pm

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