On my way to a recent conference, a stranger standing next to me in the elevator posed that question to me. Sometimes it’s the off-occurrences in life that stick with you and I’ve been contemplating the question ever since.
I was representing Communispace on a panel at the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative/Marketing Science Institute’s conference on the Emergence and Impact of User-Generated Content. Some of the best academics from across the world were gathering to discuss the collective impact that empowered internet users are having on companies and organizations.
I heard over the course of two days some of the most current thinking on topics like the role online communities play in innovation; the potential for text mining across the web in understanding stock performance; along with the benefits and pitfalls of crowd-sourcing new ideas, just to name a few.
You and I have already heard that we are living in a brave new world of fast, intense, hyper-sharing of information and opinion because of the advent of the internet and social media. But I have to say the excitement at the conference about the potential for better understanding and responding to the needs of consumers, investors, patients…people worldwide was absolutely palpable.
As I think more about it, technology has seemingly always been playing catch up to human expression, whether it was the printing press allowing for an autobiography like Ben Franklin’s to be broadly distributed or YouTube making homemade videos consumable. We now need to not only read text contributions but also evaluate digital images, audio and video that people post to really ‘listen’ to them effectively. We can never stop thinking about the next methods they’ll come up with.
My initial knee-jerk reaction to the question in the elevator was to laugh but if you think about it in the context of the technology of the time and the innovation in personal expression and message it represented, Ben Franklin may indeed have been our first American blogger.