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Dienstag, 16. Oktober 2012

How Social Media is Changing the World

While preparing the session about how to use social media and the web for changing the world/politics my fellow colleagues Dirk Dohse, Wan Hsin Liu and I proposed some concrete solutions. The solutions should be a first step towards implementing SoM and the net into political decision making and into solution oriented decision making processes.

During GES 2012 we will have the chance to propose these solutions for a broader audience. If we take a look onto activities of bigger telecommunication enterprises like Verizon it is really time for using data in a positive way for the whole society.

How Social Media is Changing the World - 5 Proposals for a Better Way of Using the Net

Image: Ole Wintermann, 3.0 CC BY-SA

1. Promote organizational change to stimulate an efficient and beneficial application of internet and social media

Online communities fundamentally change the nature and way in which people work together and in which companies do business. In order to make the best out of the new opportunities, organizations should be proactive and develop a comprehensive social media strategy. This implies having a plan for what to do with the information exchange, who is responsible for interactions, where the information gathered socially will be recorded and captured and how it will be used to benefit the main goals of the organization. When launching a social media strategy, it is particularly important that companies give careful consideration at what the social footprint they leave will do to their operations.


2. Facilitate individual adoption of social media and tackle impediments in an intelligent way 

The efficient and beneficial use of internet and social media does not only require deliberate and proactive action on the side of the management, but the commitment and cooperation of all members of the organization. It is important to take reservations seriously and to integrate employees in the strategy development process. Moreover, all members of the organization should be enabled to share the new opportunities, e.g. by offering special training to elder employees.

3. Establish reliable collective information evaluation mechanisms 

Different from the pre-internet era, information seekers using internet and social media may less likely be confronted with information deficit per se but they are required to select useful and reliable information they really need from a large reservoir of information provided by unknown users with various expertise and different degrees of reliability. One potential solution to support the digital information seekers to identify reliable information is to establish collective information evaluation mechanisms. This makes use of the key feature of the digital world, namely each individual user can make own contribution to further improve the quality and reliability of the information provided online. Internet users can assess the usefulness and reliability of the information and provide their feedbacks to correct mistakes or clear misunderstandings if necessary. The evaluation results can be accumulated and documented in the information providers’ profile; thus, reliable information providers can build up their reputation online over time. Better reputation increases the reliability of the information they provide later online.

4. Provide online videos and platforms to inform internet users, especially the younger ones, about potential online risks they are faced with and the potential impacts of their online behaviour on others 

Internet users, especially the younger ones, may be more familiar with how they can utilise internet to obtain information they need than their elder counterparts. However, younger internet users may lack experience in how they should interact with others in a more responsible manner. The higher anonymity of individuals acting in internet than in the real world makes it more difficult to trace the online behaviour of individuals and thus makes it more difficult for internet users to obtain feedbacks from others which they otherwise may obtain in the real world. However, behaving in a responsible manner with respect for other internet users is equally essential for ensuring long-term reliable information and knowledge exchanges among internet users. To increase the awareness of online risks and potential impacts of individuals’ internet behaviour on others, one may not rely on courses and/or lectures in the real world only. Instead, it may be easier for internet users to absorb the information as such via related online platforms and short videos showing, for example, the experience of other internet users. Such platforms and videos connect the individual behaviour in the digital world to its consequences in the real world. Moreover, it is expected to be easier for internet users watching these videos to put themselves into the position of the internet users shown in the videos and to digest the information they obtain there.

5. Increase the willingness of decision makers from policy and business for using modern communication techniques to interact with the public more intensively for consensus-building and to enhance the transparency in political decision making processes 

(Some) politicians and economic decision makers were so impressed and surprised by the dynamic of Anti-SOPA- und Anti-ACTA demonstrations worldwide. To be surprised in such a way could be an indicator for not understanding the protests. What is the reason for that fact? Firstly the age of the Act-pusher is higher than the age of the people going out on the streets. Secondly the initial point of the acts is not quite clear. What was the background of that initiative? It seems to most of the citizens that the content related enterprises and also some parts of the classical industry were becoming more actively engaged in the decision making process to ensure the stakes of a starving industry. Furthermore it was not allowed for politicians (not involved in the secret negotiations) to get an insight into the process and talk about the content of it. Last but not least the regulations defined in the act are not able to handle internet-based and -related processes. The regulations are in wider parts a try to combine rules of the offline world with the logic of the online world. That last problem works like a catalyst of all the protest. On the one side you have all the members of the old establishment; on the other side you have these internet oriented mostly younger people who do not want to be called thieves just because using file sharing. How could these type of problems be solved? The political (and also the economic) decision makers should use the opportunities that the internet can give them. Be transparent regarding your decisions. Use the internet as a tool for asking people for their comments and ideas if you want to initiate a new legal act (this does not mean to have a direct democracy - the problem of possible gridlocks is not being solved yet). Give all the people interested in that issue the opportunity to participate (this means not to decide!) in the whole process. It is easy: the actors should just be democrats.