Experience Management Blog

The Internet is Not the Medium: WE are the Medium

Note: Sprinklr engaged the Social Media Dream Team, 30 of the top minds in enterprise social media to help you understand best practices in enterprise social media management. You can download the full PDF here. Today’s excerpt is from David Weinberger, you can follow him @dweinberger.

david weinberger“Social@Scale” until recently was a contradiction. We assumed the more social ties you had, the weaker they became – until you were down to people whose names you can’t quite remember. But the Net is a swirl of sociality that can go from zero-to-intimate in nanoseconds. And each new relationship can be the start of something that builds, can fall away forever, or can be there as a possibility for another unexpected fling. Sociality thus doesn’t work the way we assumed it did. New possibilities are emerging.

And this is for three key reasons. First, the Net connects us all-well, a couple of billion of us.

Second, it enables a flourishing of innovative ways of being social. (How often in our history could we have said that? Wait, I know! This once!)

Third, the Internet is not a medium. A telegraph wire is a medium for dots and dashes: messages are sent through it. The Net’s not like that. Messages pass through the Internet because we – the people on the Internet – find them interesting enough to send along. Telegraph wires don’t get to send only the dots and dashes they happen to care about. And telegraph wires don’t see their social standing go up or down based upon the messages they pass. The Internet is not a medium. We are the medium.

Because of this, when businesses try to push their own messages through the Net, it is worse than ineffective. It is offensive. The Net manages to provide scale based on intimacy. It does this by enabling connections that express what matters to us. Messaging of the marketing sort corrodes intimacy.

So what should businesses do?

1. Don’t talk unless what you say will improve the conversation.

2. Since hierarchies don’t interact well with networks, the people who speak for you on the Net need also to be speaking for themselves as honest-to-God humans with names and faces -people who put the value of the conversation and the interests of your customers ahead of the narrow interests of your business.

We’re building something wonderful here. Corrupt it at your peril.


A frequent commentator on NPR, David Weinberger is a senior researcher at Harvard Law’s Berkman Center for the Internet & Society and Co-Director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab at Harvard Law School. He also is the author of “Too Big to Know” and the co-author of “The Cluetrain Manifesto.” Under the radar, David also wrote seven years worth of gags for Woody Allen’s comic strip, but was never asked to make a cameo in any of his movies. You can follow David on Twitter @dweinberger or at his personal blog, Joho.