Iconoclasts are the people who tear down the idols of faith. Traditionally this has been a religious activity, but the growth of a secular society has seen the development of secular idols of faith. And social computing has already developed many of the trappings of a religion, with its own priesthood and idols.
But one of the big learnings of recent times is that experts don’t always have all the answers and that we can learn a great deal from engaging in sharing of knowledge for general benefit.
Admittedly, in some cases, only an expert will do. Some examples: if I’m having brain surgery a group of opinionated and gifted amateurs is not who I want on the case; nor do I want my accountant or lawyer to be inexpert.
But in the case of emerging applications for social computing there are not really any experts. There are people who know enough to give a perspective of the technology, the affordances of that technology, and possibilities inherent in it. But once that is out of the way there is a lot more value in shared discourse than in monologue.
I often facilitate sessions with educators and we discuss how social computing is changing the landscape for both teachers and students. And I always come away from those sessions humbled by the amount that I learn. Not because these people know more. Rather it is because they are inquiring and asking questions. It is in the questions and attempts at solving real world problems that we uncover new approaches.
Real people sharing experiences, prompting new ideas and the connecting of dots drives experimentation and adoption of new ideas and new ways of doing things in social computing. This is no clearer than in the various coffee mornings (e.g. NSCM) around Sydney, where people sit and talk over coffee. They share ideas and experience and many come away energised and buzzing with new ideas to try.
But missing from the equation in social computing (or what some people call social media or new media) are the people who are willing to identify the secular sacred cows and call bullshit.
Too many of us are sitting at the feet of the experts (or gurus, ninjas, rockstars, gods and goddesses) waiting for them to deliver the answers from on high (possibly on the new HP tablets if not stone tablets).
Perhaps it’s time for some more social media iconoclasts?