How much can you understand from just watching and not participating?
Last night I met a Professor who although used Facebook and other platforms seemed proud to state he did not use twitter.
His job was to study social Technology and although obviously a very smart chap It made me wonder.. Is it possible to comprehend something as complex as social Technology by not participating in a platform like twitter. Can you glean just as much insight from only using sites like Facebook?
I am reminded of the quote by George Colony, CEO, Forrester – “Social technology is like sex. It’s fun to talk and read about, but you can’t truly comprehend it unless you do it”.
All of my insights into Social Technology have come from my uses of it. When asked to talk on the subject I will often warn that “I show by doing without knowing.”
I’m not sure I really know how and why it works for me. All I can do is show when and how it has and the results and implications of it’s use in my networks.
No epiphanies have come from using Facebook for me. All of the impact I have felt has been from the realtime experience of Twitter. Now Facebook is emulating much of the simplification and twitter like apps, perhaps we will se more similarities in it’s use.
It’s the professors and academics that will be called upon to steer legislation around our use of these platforms once mass adoption has occurred and crime moves into this space. This is why I feel quite strongly that if you are to truly understand the complexities of social media, you need to participate in it where ever possible.
Poll: Is it possible to comprehend modern social technology and real time web while not actually participating in conversations on twitter?
Please CLICK HERE to vote on and see the poll.
Jennifer Jones says
I think to lump “professors and academics” together in one detached lump is misleading – I’ve worked closely with colleagues who 100% “get it” (if getting it means they use the Internet and their network in a particular way ) – and I’ve worked under incredibly switched on people, in the realm of social technology, who refuse point blank to use twitter and the likes.I think it is fair to say both can exist together- the issue is, which I think that’s what you getting at (which in turn, I totally agree with), is when a group of people try to “block” the other and make assumptions of the others misunderstandings. Both “sides” are guilty of it (two extremes), the trick is to understand both sides, whilst keeping an eye on the bigger picture. Increasingly hard in an echo chamber – but worth the discussion. 🙂
Hi Jennifer, I didn’t want to tar all Professors and Academics with the same brush. Merely ask a question. The Professor last night seemed confident in the fact he didn’t need to use twitter to understand it.I would not understand much about twitter at all if i just read a book on it. I was on for nearly 2 years before I feel i truly ‘got it’. It was only use and the instances that occurred from it’s use that really gave me some insight to it’s workings.Albeit how it works for me with the way I use it. 🙂 It is no doubt different for everyone.
Jennifer Jones says
It’s the same question those who use social media/web 2.0 at Universities have been asking themselves – there is a steady flow of people emerging from within universities (and other institutions) who have been coming out as “twitterers” and bloggers” and probably have been working at their colleagues for years to try and get them to engage with new technologies. Perhaps it boils down to different personality types – or how much workload they have – or previous experiences with the web – as with personal networks, experiences may vary – but believe me, they are trying. I worked in a whole department that appeared to deny social media – at least from the practitioner perspective. They were quite happy to study it from a distance (and when I was doing my MA in the same dept, it proved beneficial to ground some of this stuff in a historical context) but you are right, how can you possible understand exactly what is going on if you aren’t using it? The age old argument of observational vs embedded participation.Entirely frustrating when you come at a subject with such passion and enthusiasm – unfortunately, they are passionately infused with trying to work out what’s going on without “going native” – I guess there is a lot to learn from both.
Phil Leggetter says
If you removed the words “social” and “technology” from your question it would be equally as valid. Throughout our lives we come across people who have not participated in something and they are happy discuss, or in some cases even teach about, things they have never used. Clearly everybody has the right to an opinion, or to use discussion as a form of learning, but you can’t claim to understand something such as this without participation. Is it possible to truly understand anything without participating?If I were to take up a role in a University teaching software engineering without ever writing a line of code, or if I were to start up a business focusing on real-time web technologies, as I am doing, without ever having built a solution using a real-time web technology then people wouldn’t take me seriously.If you’ve written a computer program in one programming language does that mean you understand how to write a program in another? Some would argue yes, others would state that languages can differ quite dramatically so you can’t make that statement. The likelihood is that you would have some understanding about how to write the program in the other language but you wouldn’t fully understand how until you started doing it.It sounds like the professor gets the concepts behind Twitter through use of other social media platforms but until he participates he will not be able to claim that he fully understands it.
Cheers @leggetter Great comment thanks for the input and points well made. http://post.ly/IQo1
The very thing that defines twitter, it’s 140char limit, can be offputting too: That’s one valid reason to choose not to use it.Would covertly following via RSS count as participation?
Phil Wain says
Hi Christian, thanks for kicking this off – I posted a comment, lost it and then turned it into a blog post: http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/no_good_reason/2010/01/do-you-have-to-do-social-media-to-get-social-media.htmlI don’t think any one technology defines whether you use social media (although blogs and twitter are close to it), so for instance if he was a big FriendFeed user that would compensate. Part of the problem is that traditionally you don’t need to ‘be an X’ to research X (although there are some research methodologies that do take this route). So you can research stock market trading without being a stock market trader, and indeed this objective distance is necessary.So the question may then be ‘Is social media different somehow?’ I think it is, partly because they are technologies that transform academic practice also (e-research, e-science, learning 2.0 etc). But also I think they are new and rapidly evolving, so you have to be ‘in the space’ to detect the changing currents and to ask the right research questions.
Thanks @mweller I think we assume that if we are able to study we will automatically understand. We have been studying space for a long time but only came close to understanding the moon, for example, properly when we visited it. Many of our science books were rewritten when we got there. I feel to study from afar without jumping in is a long way off what is needed. IMO 🙂
Jonathan Worth says
I worry that a generation of students are currently graduating, fettered by their mentor’s unwillingness or inability to jump-in, swim and learn from the ‘fish’.The internet is substantially older than most of the students going through college, and they’re defining what it is and will be.When I look at this through their eyes for a moment, what will they think ? We’ve actually had their entire lifetime and more to get used to the idea of the internet No, in answer to your question, traditional ‘Broadcast teaching’ won’t work. Mentor – learn from your students or retire.There’s a rambling, ranting post on this topic here : http://jonathan-worth.blogspot.com/2009/11/retire-before-you-stop-learning.html
Jonathan Worth says
Maybe my comment makes more sense with this quote – thought I’d included it :”We don’t know who discovered the water, but we know it wasn’t the fish.” Marshall McLuhan.
Just seen this comment, thanks. you made sense the first time and topped it off nicely.
Richard Mackney says
Why not research through participation? – there is no barrier to entry on this subject, theory has it’s place when real experience can’t be gained through cost, distance, sensorship or other hurdles. Just sign up and see where it takes you, that’s the whole point isn’t it?If I had read a book about it when I first found twitter would I of experienced the revelations that I have?
Lee Martin says
I find it hard to accept that “his job was to study Social Technology!”I have always been taught that to fully understand anything you have to become an expert at it. There would be so much information this gentleman would be missing out on by not participating- information that could change his whole view on the subject. Therefore by not participating, he is short changing himself and portraying a wholly inadequate opinion as it was not based on experience! My Dad always said to me “Aces in their places” – be an expert.