Personal Empowerment and Community Building through Social Media

23 03 2010

Source: Flickr: Franco Folini "Graffiti on a truck: renuer"

Throughout history, the development of technology has always sparked counter-cultural movements that have looked to subvert popular culture and societal norms.

Many of these movements were inspired by the situationist movement of the 1960s. However, all these movements did have 2 common underlying motives. They all looked to improve personal empowerment and encouraged the building and growth of communities.

One such movement led to the use of print media to create the “Whole Earth Catalog“. This catalog promoted openness, user-generated content (yes!..back in the late 60s) and stood for the democratization of information and collective consciousness. Out of this catalog was born a message board called Whole Earth Lectronic Link (WELL) in 1985. This online message board looked to again subvert culture by attempting to use technological tools (initially built for societal control) to bring about Personal Empowerment and a sense of community. Of course, I don’t need to remind you that the same underlying motives form the foundation of Social Media and the web 2.0 world as we know it.

I therefore strongly feel the success of innovation in the Social Media world will be heavily dependent on whether or not newer ideas take the fulfillment of these very motives/ideals a step further. Yes, I know there are many other factors that will influence success, but I believe that these cultural motives are critical to laying a foundation that can withstand growth.

I think a good example is Foursquare (and of course other similar location based services) because it looks to improve personal empowerment by giving businesses the ability to better cater to their customers’ needs. Are there other examples of innovation in social media that adhere to these two principles? Your input will make this post and my follow-up a lot more interesting.

References: www.virtualcampfire.org

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