Whither my Social Media?: “Tickertape Talk”

6a00d83451db1569e200e550587dd08834-640wiI think that now is a good a time as any for me to share some thoughts on my burgeoning relationship with new media.

I have, these past five months, been engaged in an intensive search for a full-time role to allow me to parlay my experience in advocacy and community building into efforts to empower the marginalized in the US.

That quest continues. But frankly, I’m finding systemic obstacles which I believe bear out some of the concerns I had when the economic stimulus package was first proposed.

My worry was that so much money, being made available in such a short period of time, would gum up the works. And, to some extent at least, that is what is happening.

The ready-to-go projects are…well…ready to go. But where there are no networks in place to address the purpose for which a chunk of money has been issued, there is hold-up.

Where recipient agencies have no personnel or programs in place, there is hold-up.

And worse. The excess of money, added to the sometimes program/personnel vacuum, is igniting the all too well known fratricide that occurs when there is a dramatic change in funding of agency and non-profit programs.

This empire-building by potential funding vultures is causing wariness, and thus fear-freeze, about expanding or creating the programs and networks necessary to take advantage of the new funding.

A further element of the fear-freeze is the question: how to plan for when the funds are no longer there? To what extent is it actually harmful to create programs or hire personnel upon which or whom those at risk may become dependent, if those funds may run out in three years’ time?

My view is that the picture will become much clearer in about 6 months’ time. In the meantime, I have been assiduously employing all manner of social and new media to advocate for that new role for me. That will continue. But I’ve become fascinated by social meida as a form of expression in its own regard.

I love to write. I’ve been writing all my life. From my first school essays, when my mother drilled into me the basics of good grammar and writing. To the prospectuses I wrote as a marketeer. To the speeches I write for politicians – and myself. To the briefs I wrote as a lawyer. To the book I wrote about my involuntary skirmishes with international intelligence. Finally to the blogs, Facebook and new media of today.

What made up my mind to collect my thoughts about social media was the scandal in the UK over the weekend over the alleged abuse by the Prime Minister’s Blogger-in-Chief of social media as official smear machinery.

Together with my own mini-outburst about the quality of the language in which the new media is being written. This led me to the question: is it time to explore social media as a form of expression in its own right? I know others are probably doing so already. But time for me to pitch in!

Those of you who know me know that I am anything but casual about what I do. Whether it is serious advocacy, or a seemingly light-hearted poke at the silliness of life, I analyze, ponder, re-arrange and comment, with a forwardness some find charming, others irrationally intense.

Which explains my penning a whole essay on the subject!

The first conclusion I arrived at – and I tend to find those annoying conclusions rattling around in my head, and then spend hours working back through the rationale. The first conclusion was that I’m being unfair about what I had described as the sloppiness of new media.

How can I say, on the one hand, that the beauty of new media is that it is free of rules and regulations and form, and then obsess about structure?

I believe, absolutely, in the anarchy of the web and its associated social media. I believe passionately that, in a world grown cynical with various ‘me’ generations, with spin, with lifeplans, agendas, Blackberry’s and Burberry, we all need a platform that totally cuts through the crap, and shines a light on the truth every time, because there is nothing that stands in its way.

It follows, therefore, that the truth must be allowed to air however it is found. In whatever form is comfortable for the expresser. Replete with different form and syntax, errors, abbreviations and typo’s.

This what makes it vital and real. This is what gives it authenticity. It is supposed to be a fully natural tool for expression. Fast, immediate. And that does not allow for accuracy every time. Indeed, it encourages the opposite.

As much as that might grate with me, it shouldn’t. Besides, I am allowed to express myself how I wish – full sentences and all – and I can comment on the contributions of others. But there should be no rules banning either form of expression.

And that brings me to my next conclusion – once again, before the rationale! Social media is now with us to stay. It might, therefore, be time to start thinking of it as a form of literary expression; not just a tool for expression.

Men (and women) have been driven to express themselves since the earliest cave paintings – the very first example of social media! I’m pretty sure those cave dwellers didn’t think of what they were doing as an art form. I’m pretty sure that many who wrote what are now collected letters, did not do so with an eye to their being studied in University Writing Courses. But they are.

I’m not sure that we should spend too much time fashioning how we use social media to ensure that it is regarded in a similar scholarly light, but I don’t think it hurts to examine the form to to see how it might evolve and fit into the literary world.

In keeping with my new attitude about the new media, I will talk only about my own experience. What others do is up to them, and them only.

Getting back to the abbreviated text-style language of social media, and tweeting in particular, the English language, any language, is not a fossilized instrument. It evolves. So, I was wrong to say you can’t play with language. Yes, you can.

In fact, when I was writing my book, I did just that – to the utter consternation of my Uncle, who taught English at the University of Chicago.

I wanted the book to have authentic rhythm and pace. I wanted people to read it as if they were seeing it happen. So, I employed a staccato form of punctuation and speak.

For example. If we’re angry, we may scream a sentence in punctuated pauses. and that’s how I wrote it. I. Am. Very. Angry. It broke rules. But it got my point across. And yet was still readable.

That is the one problem I find with much modern tweet and text-speak. I can’t understand it. I’m guessing that, as time moves on, either we will all learn the new speak, or the speak itself will evolve so that it mellow a bit.

In the meantime, more than one literary analyst has worried over the problem of how to quote language which is not readily identifiable for the readers of the quote. Translate, or stay authentic. In keeping with the thrust of this article, I would veer towards authenticity. I think it is for fogies like me to adjust, rather than blunting vital expression.

So, a quick pit-stop: social media is what it is; it may evolve; but leave it to find its own level; if you want to engage, do so on the terms of the new media – which should have no rules; do what you want to do; just be authentic.

So. What is authentic for me? Ah. No conclusion this time. Just a starting point. Some thoughts. And then a long dive in to the unknown.

I find myself with time. So, I will take the time to be a tad self-conscious about my contribution to the world of social media going forward.

For the past few years, I have used mainly blogging, not as a form of expression, but as a tool for advocacy. in the past few months, I have been doing that almost exclusively with Facebook.

I believe that networks like Facebook are the future for citizen journalism and social media, whether it be as tools or literary art forms.

It’s a question of logistics and software. No public blog site that I can find has the sophistication of application of Facebook. And that includes MySpace.

One of the most important facets of new media is traffic. most users are not interested in existential monologues with the universe. They want response. They want comment. They want adoration. They want fun. They want visitors. They want traffic. And yes, they wouldn’t mind advertisers, too.

The fact is that I have generated more interaction on my Facebook page in five months than I have done in five years of five different forms of public blog.

The fact is that, increasingly, we find ourselves funneling our other forms of social media expression back to our Facebook page. How many MySpace profilers quote their Facebook page URL, versus Facebookers doing so with their MySpace page?

[Quick Infomercial: I didn’t intend for this article to end up as a kiss-ass for Facebook. But since it seems to be heading that way, if Chris Hughes is out there, I take payment in used $20 bills. Pack ’em in a suitcase, and send me a key for the Union Station drop-box…]

I believe that we will see one of the next evolutionary steps for Facebook, is the corporate giant offering a way of sharing advertising income with well-visited pages.

For myself, I draw the line at Twitter. I don’t carry a phone with me. I don’t want people to know when I’m taking a dump. So, I’ll stick to all of the wonderful tools available to me at Facebook: commenting on links; adding notes; and using that annoying little share thing to tell you…when I’ve had the dump.

I will, however, continue to use one or other of my blogs when I want to write a longer piece like this. To be honest, I haven’t quite worked out why yet. Maybe I still want a more direct relationship with individuals who subscribe? Maybe it’s just a Luddite instinct not to move too soon too fast?

One thing I do know. Well, i know the outlines, but not how it will work out. I will concentrate on using my blogs and Facebook as forms of expression. And I will explore. Not so much the technology. As the use of it, in the spirit of it.

I will use it as a platform for immediate expression of what is going on in my head. What is happening in my life. What I feel about the links I find. Without worrying about where I go.

For I think that will, ultimately, be the greatest contribution of the new media, to evolve a way of expressing immediacy in ways that people find authentic and, therefore, compelling. Not as a goal, but as a natural product of the form.

For me, that will mean the incredibly intense alongside the utterly crass. That will mean some things that seem spot on. And others that you may feel should be returned to the inner depths of my consciousness.

And it may involve risque. Look, I’m from England. The land of the bedroom farce and Benny Hill. The people who gave you Monty Python. Read Shakespeare. In large part, it was vulgar, tabloid trash written for the masses. It is only academics who have raised it to an art form. And right there, is a metaphor for the new media. As I see it. And so, you will see bluntness, irreverence and sex. Along with the serious and the heartfelt.

Most of all, I will try very hard to make it me. It will stumble. It will fall. It will pick itself up. And then, laugh at itself. But I want to make it an authentic expression of me. I would hesitate to describe anything I do as either artistic or literary, but that is my ambition with my Facebook page.

And I look forward to lots of traffic, in unintelligible tweet-speak, that will drive me crazy, but with which I will happily engage, in my newfound welcome of the authentic voice of the literary form in the Twenty-First Century.

[And P.S: I will continue to beat myself up mercilessly for my own syntax, grammatical and typing errors. Just me. No-one else!]

[And P.P.S.: Just to prove there was purpose to the subject heading, I will, at least informally, christen my Facebook Page, “Tickertape Talk,” in honor of the original machine, which spewed out up-to-the-minute ramblings, in no particular order or form, just to get it out there.]

[And P.P.P.S.: I found the picture for this article online. I really like it. Seemed appropriate. But it’s not mine. It belongs to JD Lasica and his web-site “New Media Musings.” I’m not sure of the etiquette for this, or even if there is one. So, I’ll just fall back on good old-fashioned British graciousness. Say, thank you, JD, and here’s a link to his site – not even sure if this is the up-to-date site; but it’s where I found the pic.]

Published on April 13, 2009 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://geoffgilson.wordpress.com/whither-my-social-media-tickertape-talk/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: