What are social media?

Social media are those that gain value or meaning as a result of the interactions of more than one person.

In Teaching Crowds we include quite a lot of things in the category of social media that fall outside the obvious suspects like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, FourSquare, Tumblr, Pinterest or Instagram. Our use of the term encompasses things like email, media sharing, instant messaging, video conferencing, blogs, content management systems, wikis, learning management systems and thousands upon thousands of other tools where people can communicate with one or more others. We include in our use of the term commercial publication or retail systems like newspaper sites with comment sections, Amazon, eBay, and craigslist. We don’t limit ourselves to the Web – cellphones, mobile networks and even some bluetooth applications are very social. Many classifications of social media focus on one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many interactions but we also include systems with very indirect many-to-one social interactions, such as Google Search, tag clouds, collaborative filters and more that are powered by the interactions of a crowd. This is what we mean by the collective: through many-to-one interactions the crowd itself, as opposed to the individuals within it, can teach.

This site is itself an example of a social medium (more accurately, it is probably several). Do feel free to comment on this page, whether on the site itself or on another social medium, and contribute to our growing understanding of social media. This is not publication so much as it is shared learning dialogue. Unlike traditional one-to-many media, you can talk back and make a real and valuable contribution to the learning of all.

In the sphere of social media we are all learners and we are all teachers. This is not just about sharing ideas and information. It is about sharing in the creation, construction and connection of knowledge itself.

See chapter 1, in particular, for more on what we mean by ‘social media’ and what their benefits might be for learners.


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