The Connection Between Online and On Land
Posted by Allison Fine on June 12, 2009
Amy Sample Ward posed a question for the Net2 Think Tank for this month: How do real-world (offline) events fit into social media conversations and campaigns?
I can’t think of a single time I have spoken at a conference or event when this question didn’t come up. A Boomer will stand up and pretend to ask a question but actually make a statement that goes something like this, “Social change can’t just happen in that cyber space world of yours, it has to happen on the ground, with real bots, where real people are and where real change happens.” Sometimes they throw a profanity or two in there.
Now, what’s missed by this listener is the opener qualifier that I put into every talk I give. It goes something like, “Now before you get too concerned that I’m going to tell you that social change is only going to happen in cyberspace in the future, please hear me: social change will continue to happen where it always has, in person, on the ground. We need to create meaningful connections and intersections for people online and on land.” And yet, no matter how loudly I say that the accusing question always comes.
The easy answer is that people are afraid. The statement maker feels assaulted by all of the wizardry of the Connected Age and really hopes it will just fade away. Their anxiety comes out in this accusation that I am suggesting that every aspect of our lives moves online. I alone appear responsible to them for the death of in person relationships, newspapers, and probably General Motors, too!
The harder answer is that social media activists haven’t emphasized the on land piece enough. Remember the old advertising adage; it’s not until they scream that they heard you that they actually have. We need to yell it louder. Online and on land are inextricably linked, social change can’t happen online alone, social change can’t scale on land alone. But techtopians like me get really, really excited about a new mapping of the Iranian blogosphere (see it here, it really is sooo cool!) and are less focused on parlor meetings and coffees and Meetups – they’re not as sexy. But the change that we want to see won’t happen without them.
So, what should we do?
We need to get much more intentional about the intersection of online and on land. We need to keep asking the question, “And how does this [effort/campaign/outreach/gadget] connect to on land efforts?” Think of it as a physics equation; every online activity and event has to have an equal on land component. We need balance to our efforts, we need to strengthen relationships and build our social capital in ways that can only happen on land.
This entry was posted on June 12, 2009 at 7:59 am and is filed under Social Media. Tagged: Amy Sample Ward, Net2 Think Tank. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
One Response to “The Connection Between Online and On Land”
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.