Medium As Meaning, Social As Business ?

The term “social business” seems to be taking root.  It seems currently to be accepted as a positive force for addressing in humanizing ways the lingering effects of the industrial-era workplace, and is spreading wide pretty quickly. This is generally a good thing for which I am all in (see the interview by WorldBlu on the deep forces pushing forward on democratic principles in the interconnected workplace).

That said … I am more inclined towards Stuart Henshall’s perspective as set out in his recent post “Learning Faster not Social Business or a Big Shift


Business is a social construct that is changing. Stowe points to an article by Tom Friedman today. Sometimes we really should think about consultant speak. I’m know I can be guilty of it too. Still using words and reinventing phrases to put a new lens or insight out there isn’t always hopeful. The problem is this isn’t really new. The future for business is not #socialbusiness.


But I think we need to get newly or differently “social” in the business context (hence all the incessant discussion of hyperlinked collaboration, sociality, social computing).  Business and the organizations that make up the business eco-system have always been social systems, and there has been an accepted social structure and general set of dynamics that have held sway in that world for the past 4 or 5 generations.

I agree with Stuart that “learning faster” is the real objective here.  I think social business and shifts are the means by which learning how we can all learn faster will move us towards that objective

In the new context hypelinks and the Web and social tools offer us all, people everywhere must be helped to understand that some sort of important shift or rupture with the past is going on, before we can individually and collectively start “learning faster”.

Patti Anklam has been analyzing the ‘social landscape’ of the social business advocates in a comprehensive blog post “Socializing“.  As I ws reading it this morning I ran across a line that made me stop and reflect, for a couple of reasons.


” … social media is both about technology and the social habits that are being entrained by our use of it. So the media is not just the message (as per McLuhan) but it is the message and the messengers.


First, the line I noted in Patti’s essay took me directly back to a piece I wrote in 2005 titled “The Medium Is The Meaning We Consume and Create … Together


In the 1960’s Marshall McLuhan coined his most famous aphorism:

“The medium is the message ”

It has become a constant and widely used reminder to us about the ways an increasingly media-saturated world invade and surround our individual socio-psychological contexts, creating and changing how meaning is shaped and delivered through communications vehicles.

Subsequently, the presence of electronic media for creating, distributing and communicating information, knowledge and meaning has grown more widely and more dramatically than perhaps even he could have foreseen.

Within this context, I want to try to stitch together a few concepts, perspectives and examples with which I am more or less familiar and perhaps update the core implication of McLuhan’s famous phrase.

[ Snip … ]

Many people are beginning to publish blog essays, snippets and podcasts, and the equivalent of roundtables convene to discuss emerging issues, engage in conversation and solicit engagement and participation.

In the new re-tribalised world, the fire at the centre of our conversation is the monitor, and we gather in front of it to use the new tools of connectivity and the ancient tools of conversation to bring ourselves to a new level of engagement with our media.

I believe that with this new increasingly interactive medium, we are individually and collectively learning and conceiving how to create and shape meaning together. We are now in the early stages of much more choice and control over which medium we use for which type of meaning we want to create, distribute and share.

With the addition of the Internet and blogging to the spectra of available media, I hope we individually and collectively are moving towards producing and consuming deeper, more inclusive, more participative, more comprehensive and more full-of-meaning whole communities, societies and world.

Perhaps the medium is becoming the meaning we want to and will create.


The second reason Patti’s line made me stop and reflect is that the notions of sociality and the medium including people and the meaning they co-create are also core factors providing the medium for an all-surrounding, all-consuming Society of The Spectacle (Guy Debord and the Situationists) and The Tapeworm Economy (C.A Fitts)

We are all that we link and think … and that includes as much marketing, advertising and snake oil as it does earnest development of social and economic change for the good of our collective societies.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *