Of You, Me, Mini-Me, Mass Media, and … Mini Media

We think about social media, and social software (sites like Myspace.com, Friendster.net, Tribe.net) in different ways, but usually as software, or as a communication tool, online application or site. Though it was there the whole time, MySpace.com’s growing presence in marketing boardrooms, butcher paper flapping on its easel as that giant sucking sound down on the street whines up to a terrible shrieking pitch as times a changing start blowing in the wind, has people truly nerve racked….
Notice that Myspace.com doesn’t have “users,” it has “kids.” Software is for users. Kids, they have tools. Technologies. They have MySpace.com, and theirSpace indeed threatens mass media and for very good reason.
Modern marketing turns tall tales around a kind of language and grammar that, together with its images, celebs, experts, and trend-setters, can circulate messages that, when instructions are followed to repeat as necessary, accrue truthiness. Truthiness that’s really a cognitive lapse of reason, a suspense of disbelief allowing us to believe these commercial messages, leading us ultimately to consume. In other words, because marketing speack doesn’t come from a friend, marketing messages, and the mass media they’re circulated through, have to do two things simultaneously: establish trust and believability in the source, and convey trust that they’re telling the truth. Neither kinds of trust pre-exist the relationships we have with commerce, in other words, it’s earned every time (and the media have become very good at it).
TheirSpace is a place where that kind of marketing isn’t welcome. If the “kids” are going to launch a band, they’ll launch one of their own, and they’ll do it on theirSpace with theirFriends and theirWords. Marketers of course want in and want a piece of the action. They’re worried that mass media may be losing its appeal in this “IM generation.” Are we to believe that all it took was a crappy little social networking site to make the mass media giants wobbly?
Well, yes. Because MySpace is a tool of conversation, talk, genuine street-level hanging-out where commercial messaging is poo-pooed and laughed at. Like you wouldnt make a friend of Kraft singles would you, on a singles’ site? Duh.
So I propose that add another term to our list of descriptors for social software: mini media. In fact we could nod to the grammatical necessities of urls like MySpace for fun: “MiniMedia.”
Social software is a kind of mini mass media in which culture happens, as it does in the mass media, but through participation, profiles, social interaction, and so on. The critical difference being that the relationships are based on “friendship” (of varying thicknesses) and the talk is not commercial, it’s just normal speech-like talk. This isn’t your average software. It’s a social system, it’s got some amount of mass media in it, and while you may experience it through your browser, it’s not just software, or web, or application.
MiniMedia, what do you think?

More soon on what a talk system and MiniMedia like MySpace means for the mass media, marketing, and messaging.

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