Thinking about what connective media is, and what social media is, I become more convinced they are different. They are different in the same way publishing is different from distribution. When I write a blog post, or add a photo to Instagtam, those are objects, published objects that are potentially social, but only in a limited way. If someone ‘follows’ my blog or my Instagram, or my Flickr, or my Diigo, or my SlideShare, or my YouTube, the social aspect of my work is enacted. But that’s a small crowd who have to have deliberately chosen to pay attention to my interests and/or work. Like the crowd that might drop into a newspaper headquarters to pick up a copy.
Or perhaps my object and/or work might be seen by,a slightly larger crowd who have googled or binged my name or my tags or my topic, similar to people picking up newspapers or magazines from stands. This is the limited social web of 8 or 10 years ago. You could publish, but you had to be found. The distribution was limited. Then came Twitter.
As I’ve said in the previous post, Facebook is a walled garden where you can share in, but only to those who have asked to be, and have been accepted as, your ‘friends’. Twitter was the first to really move social objects into the connective sphere. I remember, and still find, the immediacy of breaking news as an exciting part of Twitter; the connections can be very up-to-the-minute. But the connections can also build over time into a tidal wave of distribution. Especially with the added power of hashtags, which give anyone on Twitter connections to anyone labelling their post with a topic they want to explore.
With Twitter, my blog post, or Instagram image, or any other social object that I’ve created and published on the web, can be distributed widely to strangers roaming the web and friends and followers alike. The power of Twitter is in its immediate connectiveness, not in the creation of objects. Publishing on the web is social; social objects are created. But it is Twitter and other unwalled, link-sharing apps that distribute the socially published objects. Twitter and other apps that scoop up links and connect, these are part of the connective media that distribute information, attitudes, images, events and thus have the potential to influence sales, elections, attention, culture.