Where have all the iconoclasts gone?

Or how do we escape the ‘experts‘ in the echo chamber? Inspired by @jeffjarvis, whose recent post on TEDxNYed: This is bullshit got me thinking about this whole ‘expertise‘ thing again.

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?


4 thoughts on “Where have all the iconoclasts gone?

  1. Count me as an iconoclast.

    I don’t believe in social anything… it is all a crock.

    Even social coffee get togethers. It is the echosphere


  2. More and more…

    Echo. Same. Blah.

    Yes, there are great things to be gained by participating in the online social world. Equally, there are a lot of negatives.

    Balance and realism is what’s needed, rather than rah-rah. A little judicious examination before collectively pissing our pants over the latest social media super hero.

    And frankly, the marketers and all the bits their fingers are in can go well away. It’s far and away the least interesting thing about social tools.

    Count me in. Though with three of us, doesn’t that make a “club”? 😉


  3. So far social media is 99% vanity press pure and simple. Yes there are applicable applications in business, but guess what? There have been collaborative tools around for years and they keep quietly ticking away.

    What all the recent focus has provided is to: validate the use of informal communication, get some commonality and scaling in tools, greatly expand the audience, create jobs for so called social media people.


  4. too many people are too scared to criticise these “experts” in case they look like a fool… i am flabbergasted at one in particular… and can not believe that someone who holds themselves up as a Social Media Expert and deals in 140 characters presents powerpoint slides with crowded and verbal diarrhea… I agree with the previous… it is time to call out and yell “the Emperor is wearing no clothes”


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