"Whether or not the "Age of Conversation" prompts you to log on and jump out of your comfort zone as voyeur, you'll at least be able to take your pick of 103 new links to change up that morning Gawker-Jarvis-Drudge routine."
~ Matt Kinsey, Advertising Age.
Our somewhat global joint effort, the Age of Conversation gets some serious ink as a feature in the bookstore section in Advertising Age despite it's official debut tomorrow. The book will contain quality content from a collection of professionals who are ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS in emerging media vs. industry pundits who keep an eye on it from afar. So why am I making this distinction? Because there are a lot of folks commenting on emerging media who offer opinions from an observational perspective. There's nothing wrong with this and it's definitely valuable as research, analysis and synthesis from smart and qualified people will always be in demand.
But may of the contributers of the Age of Conversation are also qualified industry professionals with one exception. We don't just talk about the effects of the conversation economy—we PARTICIPATE in it. Daily participation—in our everyday lives. Through blogs, Twitter, Second Life, Facebook, the list goes on and on...
But it's never been about blogging or the other never ending emerging technologies. As the debate rages over the perceived decline of blogging vs other forms of social media—The Age of Conversation book proves that one thing above all transcends technology and the race to test drive the latest "social app".
We are discovering our purpose through finding each other—and ourselves.
Social networks connect communities and individuals who are finding out that they have a lot in common despite our own individual diversities. The networks which are organic in nature and in some ways exhibit organized chaos—do produce fruit in the form of digital (and analog) fellowship, intellectual stimulation, sharing, and in this case giving birth to physical manifestation in the form of a book.
So why do I say it's about "finding our purpose"? Don't ask me. Ask any individual such as Karl Long of Nokia, Steve Rubel of Edelman, Mario Sundar of Linked In, Peter Kim of Forrester, Rohit Bhargava of Olgilvy PR, etc. Ask them how being a participant has influenced their professional and personal lives. And for practical examples at the organizational level—look at Adaptive Path, 37 Signals, Organic, Dell, (Direct2Dell just celebrated it's one year anniversary) Southwest, GM—brands large and small that have benefited from participation in meaningful ways. And of course this subject is near to my heart as my own experience as a participant has evolved the way I think, created new relationships as well as opportunities and influenced what I do for a living.
And for my designer friends, the Age of Conversation teaches us something about broader disciplines outside the bubble of the design world. We always talk about making something real. Rapid prototyping. Collaboration. Open source development. We talk about design as facilitation. The Age of Conversation effort shows us that marketers get this too. I'm really excited to see the physical book end up on my coffee table. It's tangible—real, and knowing that my cover design will package 100 + pages of interesting content from smart and passionate people tickles my own creativity and design sensibilities. Designers aren't the only ones producing artifacts you can touch.
Tomorrow, I get to buy the actual book. I'm going hard cover for maximum effect. In retrospect, the recent discussions about Twitter vs. Pownce vs. Facebook vs. blogging are all mute. At least for me they are. The potential of social media is this:
Knowledge. Creativity. Sharing. Relationships.
My contribution to the Age of Conversation is a one page essay called the Relationship Renaissance. In it, I propose the following:
"What sparked the original Renaissance? Some historians speculate that the “Black Death” had something to do with it. The theory is that this caused individuals to focus on the quality of their lives on earth in addition to the afterlife. As a result, art and science exploded with the help of Greek and Arabic knowledge.
Maybe our own “Black Death” has been business as usual. In Advertising. In Business. In our everyday lives. To be called a “Renaissance Man” means that you possess multidisciplinary talents. Today’s Renaissance men and women combine skills in personal publishing, podcasting, virtual worlds and other kinds of digital disciplines—which connect, converse, and ultimately allow us to relate."
My hope is that the book allows us to relate. If you are a non-participant—maybe it will provide an insight or two into the world of an active participant. what it's like to produce content and engage in conversations with our communities. If you already participate, then maybe you will see a perspective which challenges some of your current assumptions. Either way, I think it will be a good read—for a great cause.