Montag, 7. Februar 2011

How social are the Social Media?

In a recent post I have scratched on something that was called a generational war.

Is there a generational war ongoing? and if yes, what is the role of Social Media in this war?
But before becoming specific, every coming-of-age-novel is about questioning the established ways of life and finding one’s own, if we call this a generational war, then we are in the generational war since Adam's and Eve's day. It is a simple truth of life that there is always friction between generations, and progress of mankind appears within the tension of knowledge sharing and knowledge refinement.
In German a generation was named after their protest against all institutions in 1968, and after ten to twenty years exactly this generation was on their march through these institutions to power.
So, is there something particular going on right now? Let’s look at the parties in this specific campain: Boomers and Gen X as the olders are often named in the collective term digital immigrants,
while Gen Y is the first generation of digital natives. The the academic playground is an early indicator, before the digital natives coming to work (there you find the characteristics of the Digital Natives, Summary page 69).
And indeed these terms show the specific paradox of this generational clash: Digital natives and digital immigrants.
While in earlier times, the young were born into a world established by the elders, they were immigrating into an established world, and it was their role to question this world, to test what is of substance, and what to wash away and replace by their answers.
Now the young are the "Natives", indicating that it is their world, the autocracy of the youth; a digital world that is neither build nor understood by the old. In doubt, just compare the pop idols Ernesto Che Guevera with Mark Zuckerberg.
"Immigrants" on the contrary is not what I associate with filial piety. Immigrants are dependent on the natives' pity, immigrants have not the same rights as natives, and they trigger the phobia of foreign infiltration. If at all they find their place in the new society the hard way. And most of the time immigrants don't speak the native language, in our case the language of Social Media.
Whether this clash is of singular quality depends on the speed (and disruptiveness) of innovation, but I don’t see any reason for the Gen Y to be complacent (looking at the internet companies, many of the stars are day flies, do you remember them?!).
Am I polarizing? Well, you can kill the messenger, but I am observing, listening what is out there happening. I don't think Social Media can be called social, if it excludes generations from the conversation. And I don't think that a company can survive, if it does not support the externalization of the knowledge of generations, if it does not come to terms with an intergenerational contract. And as well, I don't think a company can survive, neglecting the developments of Web2.0.
I am advocating the conversation, to avoid the hype and to find solutions that serve the company and the employees.
So the true challenge of leadership might be to create value from a generational melting pot.



  1. Thanks for another thought-provoking blog. You talk about the progress of humankind appearing within the tension of knowledge sharing and knowledge refinement. The tensions that exists between generations need not always be so, just as any tensions between people of difference need not be so. Providing knowledge and learning from the knowledge of others to contribute to greater knowledge for everyone can help eliminate tensions that exist - whether by age, culture or discipline.

  2. @KMbeing tension for me here is at first a neutral term (or a term comprising various ways), in a knowledge culture this tension creates a dialogue, and in a dialectic process what you describe; in environments were the knowledge drecrates into dogma (interesting how this looks like from a connectivistic view point: a frozen network?) it may end in violence.



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