So many of us Social Media consultants are often writing how Social Media is changing our world, how a revolution is underway. That Social Media is devaluing the newspaper and changing the PR profession. And so it is. But Social Media is still very young and the significance of the changes underway will not be fully understood for perhaps another 10-15 years at least. Why?
I covered this in part recently when speaking to the Communications Faculty at the NSCC
about Social Media. The reason why has everything to do with human nature and our adoption and use of communications technology. A prime example is the printed book. Although Gutenberg invented the printing press
in the 1400’s, it took several decades before protestant leader Luther realized he could print his own bible – the result was the Christian Reformation, then the French Revolution and modern democracy. Books are a social medium.
But before a technology can be used in a revolutionary way, it must evolve within a society. Technology does not cause a revolution, yet a revolution cannot start without the technology. As the image here shows, there are four distinct phases of adoption of communications technologies (and most any type of technology) before we might experience anything that is revolutionary. These “phases” are taken from sociology and are not my invention; the concepts are not new.
Phase 1: Normal – When technology is a normal part of our world. We’ve passed this phase.
Phase 2: Ubiquitous – This is where we are. Social Media is enabled by Web technologies, and the Web is now ubiquitous in Western Society and most of Asia, but less so in developing nations.
Phase 3: Pervasive – We’re approaching this point. But there are still accessibility issues and knowledge of software to overcome.
Phase 4: Invisible – This is when a technology or medium is simply an everyday part of our lives, as in books or auto’s. This is also when revolutions tend to occur.
Today, Social Media is uniquitous, but is not pervasive and certainly not invisible. Avid users of Social Media tools, mobile devices and computers might argue. But the fact is, over 80% of the population in Western worlds use computing technology and the Web in limited ways.
Where do you think we are?
Wally Bock: http://www.bockinfo.com/docs/fourphases.htm
Clay Shirkey: http://www.shirky.com/writings/semantic_syllogism.html