Saturday, October 24, 2009

Is the Word 'Social' Doing a Disservice?

As I was reading a blog post titled 'The Latest Brew: Social Interaction!' , I decided to pretend that I am an enterprise IT manager reading the post, and at once realized the problem with the overtones of the word 'social'. Is this some kind of a club activity, where people get together and do things casually? Another post, titled 'The Much-Needed Factor for Websites: Social Interactions' accentuated the same issue. Is this Web 2.0 stuff of any use for enterprise IT, or is it more for sites like Facebook?

As interactivity professionals, we need to do one of two things urgently. Either we should downplay the word 'social' in our messaging, or educate our stakeholders in enterprise IT about the true meaning of 'social' in the context of social interactions. Andy McAfee, the enterprise 2.0 IT guru, prefers the former alternative. I prefer the latter. Here is why.

In our context, social interactions are interactions between people through computer systems. These cover a broad range of very useful and serious functions such as:

  • describing your work experiences (blogging)
  • collaborating on writing useful articles (wiki)
  • aggregating opinions data (polling)
  • helping each other through discussions (forums)
  • helping each other search and find things (bookmarking)
  • sharing digital assets and interacting with each other using those (video, presentations)
  • contributing to the content of web sites (user generated content)

and so forth. There is nothing casual about the word 'social' when used in this context. Therefore, we should make sure that IT decisionmakers understand this and weigh their decisions appropriately, without a negative bias towards the term 'social'.

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