Jeff Jarvis has a good post about where power lies in the new networked world. It’s a detailed argument and I’m simplifying it, but this is the nub for me:
Control of distribution was how the old moguls prevailed. But that is not replaced one-to-one, with new control of distribution. The internet makes us all distributors. That is why you want to be open and part of the conversation so the people formerly known as the audience distribute you.
I think that’s the point that is so easily missed.
For instance, take the hoohah over Jan Moir’s unpleasant article, or the Carter Ruck/Trafigura controversy. It’s easy to frame both these as victories for twitter; Moir herself appears to see a highly orchestrated campaign. Emergent patterns get retrofitted to a worldview where someone is control and has the power. Moir may be treating this as her vs twitter whereas it’s really her and a very wide spectrum of people who happen to be using twitter; most don’t seem to like her article but there is no uniformity and no-one is in charge.
This is also where the term social media can be tiresome, placing these network phenomena as if they are just a variation of old, central media. (Antony Mayfield highlighted this very consisely the other day, dreaming of the day we can drop the word media and focus on the social.)
UPDATE: Stephen Fry has put up a post of dazlling brilliance and spirit that explores all this in ways I couldn’t begin to emulate.