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Out Riding Fences: Clash of the Storytellers.

Here I still sit, straddling the fence between two worlds.

Social media mavens are usually high achieving business people who love marketing, technology and the fast lane of constant connectivity. Writers are lone warriors, working alone for hours a day, with fierce determination at times and horrible block and depression at others. I’ve been drifting between the tech/business and the writer/academic worlds for my entire adult life. Just recently, I’ve noticed that they are slowly beginning to meet. Well, “meet” is putting it nicely.

Most writers don’t have any clue what social media and ‘web 2.0’ are. They have never heard of Chris Brogan (who seemed to call everyone I know last night) or CC Chapman or Jeff Pulver or Twitter or Qik or Seesmic. Writers, then, are like most people. Still in the dark as to what is coming.

Social media mavens don’t have a clue, in general, of what is going on in the publishing industry. They don’t read books much. They are on-line, but they haven’t moved over to reading entire novels on a screen. Younger generations are more accustomed to this, but social media people would rather listen to a podiobook than go to the library to pick up page book.

Here is one example of a fence skirmish between the mavens and the writers I witnessed recently. Back in November, I wrote a post for my NanoWriMo friends about Book Trailers, mini-movie previews for your written novel (not a movie trailer for a feature-length film based on your novel, but a trailer for just the actual novel). I see it as a great development and marketing tool. It’s combining two arts, film and novel-writing; it could be a new way to get people excited to read. What’s not to like?

But a writer’s group I joined last week in Yahoo has some genuine curmudgeons insulting the new art and practice of the Book Trailer. I didn’t jump into the discussion; I can sniff out unchangeable minds in a listserv like a police dog screening for coke. I’ll allow them their culture and stay perched on the fence (the view is usually pretty clear from up here anyway).

If I thought the writers would listen, I’d say that a more relevant and useful discussion would be to address concerns about the reading experience. For example, let’s chat about casting. Many writers purposely avoid describing their character’s physical characteristics so the reader (i.e. ‘user’) forms their own mental picture. A trailer may hinder the novelist’s intent to engage the user’s imagination. We can also chat about plot twists and spoilers. A trailer, in using film’s unique way of portraying human nuance and slight communication, may give away basic plot structure. We could talk about human psychology and storytelling in film and novels for hours on these questions alone. But to get to these discussions, more writers have to approach the fence. Right now, it’s mostly back-turned resentment. On both sides.

As you know, I’m a big fan of social media, blogging, vlogging, and technology in general. But the mavens need to take a step closer to the fence, too. Writers study human nature. They tell tales that give insight and into our past, present and future lives. They speak to our spirit, our very core of existence. Just because you have your own .tv channel doesn’t mean you have the skills to produce that magic that comes from consuming a great story or poem. Reach out to some writers in your village, whether it be a webtown or hometown. Appreciate their talents, and they’ll adopt your strategies and include you. Social media stories will show up in literature that will be more relevant to your lives (which is why the soul seeks out art). I am writing my novel with social media in mind. I’m not the only one.

Writers, get involved. Get into blogging and podcasting, even if you are just consuming it. You belong in this social media wave even if the mavens wonder why you don’t “produce content.” It is up to writers to come out of their shells and accept new media into their space. Listen to the new stories and see the new art around you. These people can inspire you, get you work, and market your book.

Neither side is evil and neither side is sinless. But together, I think we can raise the level of literacy across all platforms and cultures. And, as we all know, more literacy means more peace.

I’m out. Gotta keep riding this desperado fence until I find a place I can call home.

Love. Literacy. Peace.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Cathy Brooks 7 February 2008, 4:11 pm

    Ah … I would argue that writers should be the most adept social media beasts of all … I’m not including folks like poets or novelists necessarily in this because they, by the nature of their work, do operate in a more solitary mode. However, most all other types of writing is done with the intent, if not effect, of communicating and connecting with others – and that is precisely where social media comes in.

    My biggest beef with many of those mucking around in social media is that their writing skills are … well … nonexistent and as a result we have a messy pile of inarticulate (alleged) prose attempting to squawk out of the digital realm. The fact that short form things like Twitter are forcing people into ridiculous abbreviations and lousy grammar only serves to exacerbate the situation.

    I, for one, am glad that folks like you are there straddling the worlds …

    That’s my .02 …

  • Susanna 7 February 2008, 4:13 pm

    I admit I’ve never heard the term “book trailer,” though I have seen a few (usually via BoingBoing). I don’t think there’s any reason a promotional video for a book needs to give away a character’s appearance or crucial plot points. It could just be the artist talking about why she wrote the book (this one worked on me before), or a mashup of images, words, and music that get across the feel of the book.

    I’m pretty into social media, but I’m also an avid reader and I tend to lean more toward that side of the fence. Until Seesmic came along, I couldn’t understand why anyone would watch some ugly guy who was a bad speaker do a long, boring podcast.

  • GeekMommy 7 February 2008, 4:19 pm

    And sadly all too accurate in my experience. The percentage of writers living in the social media world is surprisingly small given their native talents for communication.
    A few of my very talented professional writer friends have made it up on the fence where you are – but far fewer than I would expect.

    I’ve actually found that blogging and twitter and the like help me to learn different modes of writing. I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be a help to most writers to explore that themselves.

    That said, tho, I’m afraid you’re barking down a deep well when it comes to getting the soc med folks to look more closely at writing. Most of the internet is flooded with those who write incessantly on blogs, fanfic sites, and posting boards *because* they have little to no talent in that arena and no desire to improve their skills.

    The world is short on folks like Chris Brogan et al. who can write well about tech – that’s why they’re the rock stars of our set.

    Still – kudos!!

  • Deek Deekster 7 February 2008, 4:20 pm

    Labels… I dunno. Just do the writing, and let others attach labels, is how I do it.

  • Don Lafferty 7 February 2008, 4:37 pm

    As a writer who hops back and forth over the fence you’re riding I’ve learned to tiptoe around Social Media when I’m over on the writer’s side.

    I’ve spent a couple of years converting souls over on that side of the fence, evangelizing first the benefits of MySpace, then Facebook and now Twitter for their self marketing strategies. Over this time what I’ve found is, people are the same whichever side of the fence you’re on, and wherever you find new technology, a fence ain’t far away, dividing those who adopt from those who never will.

    Some people jump the fences like Olympic hurdlers while others wait, wait, and wait some more lest they risk getting over to the other side only to find themselves lost and disadvantaged in the world on the new side of the fence, handicapped by their lack of tech savvy.

    Writers are also a notoriously wary crowd, vigilantly defensive of nefarious agents and other unethical predators promising them a publishing deal if only they just sign here.

    I recently offered to provide a tutorial to that same Yahoo group you refer to, and was roundly ignored by the more than 8000 members of what is arguably one of the most active Yahoo groups in the writing community. When I thought perhaps my post became buried in the blizzard of other activity, I took another run at them. This time I wasn’t ignored, I was politely told not to spam the group.

    But the salesman in me, the writer in me and the social media evangelist in me doesn’t see a bunch of stuck-in-the-mud naysayers over on the other side of the fence, but lots and lots of opportunity.

  • PurpleCar 7 February 2008, 5:02 pm

    Lots of stuff brought up in comments so far. thanks! Talent screams out as a main concern to me, on both sides of the fence. The web gives us all a bigger soapbox on which to put out our work, but that means a lot of flotsam for everyone. How to regulate? How to rise to the top? What are the cultural references that bind us?

    Sure, we use labels, Deek, but we can’t talk about things that don’t have names. Applying the labels indiscriminately, with prejudice is the problem. I hope I didn’t do that here. One of the issues with ‘writer’ is that no one agrees on the definition! I’ve been published and paid by other people, so I qualify in one sense, but others won’t call me ‘writer’ until my novel is published. Still others call themselves ‘writers’ just because they keep a journal. Social media is too new to have those miniscule distinctions, but they will come. I stole ‘maven’ from cc-chapman.

  • Otir 7 February 2008, 5:05 pm

    I met you on Seesmic and I am really glad I did! I am pretty new to social media and started to realize that I was on the writer’s side when I started to blog, which is relatively recent, and yet.

    I am very impressed by your blogpost, because it gives me so much food for thought. I also realize how much these two groups actually don’t want to clash by staying each apart the other. I have been reading an incredible lot of bashing of the social media recently on the French-speaking blogosphere, and my understanding of their disdain is that they don’t use it but jump into it as if it were a pool were everyone is having fun, so let’s try and see what the fun about it all is. Then they come out and complain that they got wet and that their hair is all messed up.

    I have started navigating Twitter, Facebook and more recently Seesmic very cautiously, like someone who was never formally taught how to swim in a pool. So I am taking my time, getting progressively in the waters, until I feel more and more comfortable.

    So far, I am really liking it, I have to admit. It doesn’t mean that I know how to swim yet.

  • Jan / The Faux Press 7 February 2008, 5:23 pm

    Been there. Done that.


    Not that the book ever got published (yet), or the feature film produced (yet), but I’m giving a documentary a shot. 🙂

  • Deek Deekster 7 February 2008, 6:37 pm

    “Sure, we use labels, Deek, but we can’t talk about things that don’t have names.” – ooooooh yes you can. In fact, you must, or you’re not really writing… I’m not being just clever here, either, I mean it. Writing is all about defining and expressing and exploring things that don’t have names..

  • PurpleCar 7 February 2008, 7:03 pm

    Well, then they will have labels! LOL.

    But true, our job as writers is to “give it a name,” no doubt. But that’s a different subject entirely. Here I just want to talk about a culture clash. I wish we could use a comprehensive tag cloud instead of “writers” and “mavens,” but brevity is the soul of wit. And more convenient. 😉

  • Chris Brogan... 7 February 2008, 7:12 pm

    Okay, now we’re going to have to fight.

    I read TONS of books. I *love* books. I can recite my library card number without looking. I know really dorky things about books and am just shy of being a bibliophile. I used to work in a library (first job), and worked for several years in bookstores as recently as the year before last (around the holidays to pimp books on people).

    I stay glued to publishers (little binding joke), and pay close attention to Tim O’Reilly’s perspective on this, as a guy running a big publishing company in a world of weird results.

    Before I got into all this social media garbage, and the day before 9/11, I wrote almost exclusively fiction. I shifted over on that day (weird story).

    I won the National Council of Teachers of English award in high school and was drafted to go to the Bread Loaf Young Writers’ conference in Vermont at the same college that Robert Frost hung round when he was on two sides of a stone wall.

    That all said, SEEING is probably one of the biggest opportunities and downfalls in modern storytelling. The fact that we can actually portray most anything we’ve written is dangerous for the imagination. I’m the hero in all the books I read. I look nothing like Christian Bale (batman). In the Golden Compass, I was the hero. I don’t care that she was a girl. I was the hero until I saw the movie.

    So I agree with you on that front, I think.

    Beats me. I think it’s a tricky space now, and what I’m most wary of are people saying one way is right and another way is wrong on ANY front these days.

    We negotiate everything these days. My take, your take, and what we mash up. Movies and books are no longer sacred. Want to try something REALLY weird? Write in a book with pen. Cross out things. Add your own passages. Talk about a strange feeling. I still don’t even break the bindings on books (except for Cryptonomicon, which I hacked in half and carried in two separate pieces because it was too big).

    So there.

  • GeekMommy 7 February 2008, 7:29 pm


    I think that’s part of what makes your work easy to read. There’s a point at which those on the fence are really the only ones capable of navigating either.

    You wrote *before* you blogged. You didn’t blog because you couldn’t write.

    There’s a divide however where there are writers are overly cautious about adopting new technology (outside of word processing!) and there are those who take their writing skills with them into the new technology arenas and thereby enhance them.

  • PurpleCar 7 February 2008, 8:37 pm

    Fire it up, Chris Brogan. Gonna throw down!!!

    Don’t know who you’re gonna throw down with, though. Not I, surely! Of course there are people who ‘go both ways’ in any culture clash. Superb to hear you are one of them! But let us not pretend that there isn’t some resentment brewing between the general populous of both groups. You haven’t felt it? Oh you, Maven and Writer Fence Rider Extraordinaire? This discussion has to come up. Outreach has to be made.

    Deek warned me, I must say! He knew someone would pop up and be miffed at my generalizations. But as I said, I can’t ‘tag cloud’ mere words. I must label, for now. Temporarily. Until the fence comes down like the East German wall. Besides reading and writing, Chris, what kind of things do you do to get some connections going between the most die-hard extremes of these cloudy groups? I look to you for leadership, as do many. I’m not being sarcastic. Well, not right now anyway.

  • paisano 8 February 2008, 12:12 am

    I really liked this. I love writing and web 2.0 so this whole blog is like brain candy to me now!

    As for the discussion about seeing an author’s work in a visual presentation vs keeping it all within the imagination of the reader, it reminds me of something I read about Ric Ocasek from the cars, one of my favorite bands ever (despite their Boston roots!). He said he wrote songs that were meant to be heard in the car on the radio and hated music videos because he preferred to let his listeners and fans writer/direct and star in their own music videos in their head. Guess that’s why he called the group The Cars too, huh?

    I used to agree with Ocasek on that matter but now I’ve grown to love all forms of a story or song. I can still create my own imaginary version of any book I read even after seeing the bastardized Hollywood version of the yarn. The same with songs.

  • Jan / The Faux Press 8 February 2008, 4:50 am

    Aw crap – the best discussion on a subject near and dear to me and I post an incorrect link to a page from the new media book I’ve been writing since 1999. “The World’s Longest Open Love Letter.”


    That’s the correct link to an excerpt from the 2000 “Valentine’s Day Parade” ‘pages’ from the love letter, including the genesis of its being called an ‘open’ love letter.

    It’s metaphrasty, this book.

    It exists as film, poem, collection of short stories, short films, audioworks, interviews, other peoples’ works, live theater, dance, fine art in the gallery, documentary, fiction. All of it.

    And this is what the digital age has allowed me – as pure & eclectic artist – to tell a different kind of story in as many dimensions as the 0’s and 1’s will permit.

    Exciting times.

    Thanks for this discussion.

  • Jamie Croft 8 February 2008, 12:46 pm

    I too am standing on the same fence. Except, instead of being a writer, I am a graphic designer, web designer. All of the information I look into on “Social Media” or whatever it is being called today, says that I need to develop new skills etc. I do not want to participate in the social media space just to be “cool”, I want to learn new ways to communicate with people. I think that most of this is just a new way to communicate with each other. I have to admit, I have just started this and I have met people from all over the world that I would have probably never met. Just like you. I saw a seesmic video of you and then started reading your blog.

    Again, this still leaves me here standing up on this fence. I just need to figure out how to use what I am learning in this new space and see how I can use it to my advantage.

    ps it is very intimidating to write on a writers blog when I cannot write at all.

    take care, Jamie Croft

  • PurpleCar 8 February 2008, 1:21 pm

    Jamie and all! Thanks for coming. You are welcome here. No skillz needed. In fact, I don’t even require English. And let me tell you, I have no real success yet as a writer. I’m still a novice, so no worries. Let’s keep the discussion going.

    Hopefully Chris gets my point. Didn’t want to piss anyone off. But ya know, you can’t really blog without miffing someone off. Paisano reminded me of this guy in tech named Robert Scoble – he likes to read on his new Kindle machine. But as I said, there are always exceptions. Chris and Robert are big exceptions, because the numbers of men in the USA that report that they read is very low. Check out this story from NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14175229

    So, exceptions aside, there is a literacy and e-literacy issue happening here and we need to start admitting that it exists. That’s all I ask.

  • Roberta Frazier 8 February 2008, 3:19 pm


    Yes, Chris, but you never sleep. And you blog, Twitter, Utterz, and drive several hours to work while doing all 3 – we have proof! 🙂 And I’m sure there are speakers for books on tape in your pillow…

    Christine, great article. You straddle both worlds well. With a child on one hip and holding the hand of another.

  • PurpleCar 8 February 2008, 4:18 pm

    So I twittered that I needed non social writers to come comment, so I was in essence asking the social media writer fence sitters to find me some hermit writer types. Still working on it.

  • Eric Rice 8 February 2008, 5:10 pm

    I’m always amused at how social media is some ‘skill’.

    You wanna know why it’s easy to generalize? Because of how mavens appear to look at themselves in the mirror. I bet Scoble might read books, but you might not ever see it because he can’t disconnect his phone from Qik.com. I know Brogan reads, but I can’t recall if it’s ever come up in all of his work and exploration into social technologies. Has it, dude?

    If Christine is generalizing, it’s probably for a reason.

    Perception is 9/10ths, and if we’re to be so brilliantly social, we need to stop failing so much. Because even if one inspires people, the message might be wrapped in an invisible fog of uncertainty.

    Also, I highly recommend ‘Silicon Snake Oil’ by Clifford Stoll.

  • Chris Brogan... 8 February 2008, 5:14 pm

    Hmm. Books and social media? How do you mean?

  • Roger R 8 February 2008, 6:02 pm

    just want to say your article is brilliant! ..and it made me think. Thanks 🙂

    oh.. and Cathy Brooks: I do actually see twitts with exellent grammar every day. Things like twitter is here to stay, and it will influence language development severely in years to come.. so why not adopt some of the writing techniques you see online?

    (btw I’m Norwegian and might have done a few peculiar linguistic errors) ;D

  • Roger R 8 February 2008, 6:03 pm

    ‘made’ I mean 🙂

  • Jerry Waxler 8 February 2008, 6:25 pm

    This is a great topic Purplecar, and with 25 comments so far you’re stirring things up. I think both sides of the fence take talent and time. It’s hard coming up with enough of each to do everything right, so I just keep trying, hoping I’m putting enough energy into all the right places. The internet age is filled with infinite possibilities. Hopefully we can have fun and keep each other company as we strive towards greater heights.


  • JE Gurley 8 February 2008, 7:46 pm

    Good article. I’m 54 ( just barely) and I’m slowly learning the wonders of the net. Mostly, I just use it to dig up facts for stories or find alternative words, but lately, I’ve set up a My Space site, a YouTube site and Bandmix account (I’m also a musician). I have a website and am trying to start a new Yahoo group – SciFiPi.

    I’ve still got a lot to learn about all of them (Still not sure what Twitter is), but I’m not afraid to embrace the future. I prefer reading a book becasue I read about 800-900 words a minute when I’m cooking and a screen is too slow for that, but I understand the value of mass media marketing your books and even your ideas.

    I’m slow to start and probably a slow learner (Mostly due to lack of time – I write 8-10 hours a day), but soon I will be able to blog with the best of them.

    I don’t have much time to keep up with other people’s blogs but I do try to keep in touch with the publishing industry.

    If you feel somebody beside you on that fence, it’s probably me. (Unless it’s very dark, there’s a full moon and a fog is rolling in. In that case, be very afraid.)

    Jim Gurley

  • Kerry Gans 8 February 2008, 8:10 pm

    PurpleCar, I think I am one of your hermit-type writers! All this pressure to be social-media adept makes me cringe. I consider myself pretty computer savvy in many areas (I found my husband online!), but I find my big problem is TIME. The more web content I need to keep up with, the less time I have to do other things. I already work a full time job in addition to writing, and the thought of launching a MySpace page, website, blog, etc. as well is completely overwhelming. And as soon as I learn about one thing, it seems something else has become the new fad. The speed of technology today boggles my mind, and sometimes I feel like the more plugged in I get, the less connected I really am to the things that matter – people, their interactions, their conversations, the beauty of the real world around us, and the absolute joy that can be found in being completely quiet and listening only to that little voice deep inside yourself.

    I’m not a curmudgeon, and I am trying to keep up with the media wave, but unless I give up sleep, I fear I will continue to do little but tread water!

    Kerry Gans

  • Jan / The Faux Press 8 February 2008, 8:32 pm

    I’m a hermit writer type who has used social media to get the hell out of the cave.
    You say:

    “Most writers don’t have any clue what social media and ‘web 2.0′ are. They have never heard of Chris Brogan (who seemed to call everyone I know last night) or CC Chapman or Jeff Pulver or Twitter or Qik or Seesmic. Writers, then, are like most people. Still in the dark as to what is coming.”

    I’m one who gets it is all I’m saying.

    Made book trailers in the early 90’s:


    But just really ‘releasing’ them now thanks to RSS.

    This piece was seen at the Chicago Poetry Film Festival and on PBS for a while, but that was it. Distribution took too much time away from creating.

    I lived for 15 years waiting for the technology to catch up with the ideas.

    Now, it has.

    The rest of the writers will move in here in due course.

    Just found my ex-husband poet on YouTube. Finally.


  • PurpleCar 8 February 2008, 8:48 pm

    Jerry, Jim, Kerry! Thanks for coming! I totally understand the time commitment. I forgot to mention that most social media that’s out on the web is total CRAP and isn’t worth your writing time. Believe me, I’ve been wasting time watching it. But big things are happening. Maybe I can start an “Adopt a Literacy Partner” outreach? We writers can give ideas for storylines, add our perspectives to the media space, and we techies can baby step the writers through making their first blog. Short and sweet interactions, then literacy and e-literacy, storytelling and inspiration will spread. What do you think?

    And ChrisBrogan, maybe Spin means that social media folks should be more vocal and focal about the books they love? People should have an idea that you are a bookworm. It’s important. Right now, I don’t think they do.

  • 2Di4 8 February 2008, 11:19 pm

    quite a conundrum…
    my own evolution as a writer has forced me from elitist bar-corner poet to sell-out commercial copywriter, so i can empathize. i think there is a teensy-tiny little rip in the time-space continuum that allows for a moment when the two meet in the middle.
    while i hate to admit it, there have been examples of crossovers (albeit idiotic crossovers). singer lily allen and part-time lesbian tia tequilla come to mind. neither are writers, but they did find wider popularity thanks to social media. so i believe there is hope for folks like us.
    i have to think that faulkner, fitzgerald, hemingway, and the like would have been blogging away (and possibly webcamming…) given the opportunity.

    it’s a new world. the traditionalist ludites among us just need to sniff the cash, and then it’s off to the races. mark my words: one j.k. rowling fond via myspace is all we need to start the revolution.

  • Paisano 8 February 2008, 11:23 pm

    That’s so funny. I tweeted earlier that if Hemmingway were alive today that he’d love twitter because of its 140 character limit and its brevity. Also said Dickinson would prefer wordpress and Kerouack would’ve loved tumblr.

  • K.K. 9 February 2008, 4:04 am

    Good article…personally I hate having to “Cyber” everything, but at least it’s mostly done with a few keystrokes, rather than slaughtering endless trees.
    Best, KK

  • Jon 9 February 2008, 9:44 am

    Fascinating conversation. I’m a writer and a semi-adopter. I’ve used myspace to some effect, but I don’t have a book trailer and I don’t blog anywhere near enough. I think there is a certain resitance to change/technology, but I think a lot of that has to do with time management. If you’re writing and you have a day job, it’s pretty intimidating to try to find the time to maintain a blog, etc., much less get past the learning curve to become facile with the technology. I’d love to do more, and I’d love to know more, but time is a real constraint. And until you’re immersed in the networks, it might be hard to see how that time investment is going to benefit you.

  • Bernardo 9 February 2008, 11:40 am

    I agree with you I have no problem with book trailers or anything else, especially for novelists because as a reader I know I’m making a major commitment by reading someone as I tend to obssess and book reader are generally very “name-oriented” even I am though I am primarily a filmmaker I concern myself with the plot and theme of a film rather than the director unless he be one of the greats, so for writer’s to use a tool to make people look past the name on the cover of the book and want to read their book, whatever the means is a great idea. It almost worked on me and I still remember the name of that book so it may yet.

  • Thomas C. Archer 9 February 2008, 1:30 pm

    I think there is a common misperception that most writers are older and follow the old perception of the writer being a recluse, curled up writing long hand, afraid or against technological advances, etc.

    I am a 35 year old author and recently released my first novel, Burnt Popcorn And Cheap Perfume. Iam not old, not exactly young, but I am internet and myspace addict. I consider myself
    to be technologically educated. I’ve worked in the Information Technology field most of my life.

    As we know writers come from all walks of life. There will be some who embrace the marketing potentials of the internet and others who refuse to participate.

    I do find the comment funny about the book trailer, since I brought up that topic in a writing group just a week or two ago. It’s not that I am against technology with regards to
    the book trailer. I just find it to be an absurd concept, considering it is not going to do shit for an unknown beginner author like myself. Writing is an entirely different medium.
    The only authors who may have people take notice of their work due to a trailer are the big name authors who do not need them in the first place.

  • DeniseD 11 February 2008, 8:32 am

    I don’t find the gap between writers and social media mavens as you described it all that surprising or alarming. And, I don’t think it necessary that the two worlds merge completely. Marketers and product managers know that the world of consumers is filled typically with as many innovators and early adopters as it is with laggards. See the bell curve at http://www.quickmba.com/marketing/product/diffusion/ Whether you’re the first on your block to use the newest cool gadget or tool has more to do with your willingness to take risks and embrace change than your occupation unless you assume that most “writers” are not risk-takers.

    But I’m not subscribing to that theory, either. I think getting your work published in any medium involves a lot of risk-taking behavior. Besides, “writers” is a broad label…even if you limit it to those people whose main income is generated by what they write; it still leaves a very, very large pool. Consider journalists, technical writers, copywriters, speech writers, freelance writers, analysts, editors…I’ll bet a considerable number of them are active in social media channels, or at least active in those channels in proportion to the overall population of folks in other occupations who have broadband access, own their own up-to-date PCs, take the time to explore the Internet, and are confident enough to participate in the on-line conversation.

    Perhaps the mavens are simply the early adopters/innovators on the social media curve while the “writers” as you’ve generally characterized them are the laggards. That’s not to say the “writers” won’t eventually come up the curve. After all, even luddites now carry cell phones.

    Also, what type of literacy are you referring to when you say “But together, I think we can raise the level of literacy across all platforms and cultures. And, as we all know, more literacy means more peace.” Do you mean the ability to read and write or are you talking something like awareness and understanding across diverse cultures?

    If you’re talking the ability to read and write, I’d like to think that getting more writers to consume social media would raise the level of literacy. But, I think that the issue of literacy is rooted in something far more complex than that. Doesn’t literacy correlate highly with socio-economic status and not how many writers use the newest medium to discover creative material or reach an audience?

    I do believe that awareness and understanding of diverse cultures, races and ethnicities and embracing the fact that you are part of a global community that includes these diverse groups leads to greater tolerance and respect between groups. It reduces the fear of the unknown which, I believe, is really the root cause of prejudice and discrimination and the violent behavior that too often ensues.

    Getting more people to participate in social media may expose participants to diversity and foster relationships that span that diversity, but only within the segment of the population that already has access to social media tools. What about those that don’t have technology—PCs and Internet access—at their fingertips? In many ways, these are the folks that need awareness and understanding the most. I’m just not sure that I follow how getting more writers to use social media will address that situation.

    More food for thought on the topic of blending writers and social media…Here’s Robert Frost’s ideas on fences. This is “Mending Wall.” If you go to http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/poems/jan-june02/fences_6-26.html# there’s a video of former poet laureate Robert Pinksy reading it.

    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
    And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
    And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
    The work of hunters is another thing:
    I have come after them and made repair
    Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
    But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
    To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
    No one has seen them made or heard them made,
    But at spring mending-time we find them there.
    I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
    And on a day we meet to walk the line
    And set the wall between us once again.
    We keep the wall between us as we go.
    To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
    And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
    We have to use a spell to make them balance:
    ‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
    We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
    Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
    One on a side. It comes to little more:
    There where it is we do not need the wall:
    He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
    My apple trees will never get across
    And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
    ‘He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
    Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
    If I could put a notion in his head:
    “Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
    Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
    Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offense.
    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall
    That wants it down.’ I could say -Elves to him,
    But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
    He said it for himself. I see him there
    Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
    In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
    He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
    Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
    He will not go behind his father’s saying,
    And he likes having thought of it so well
    He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

  • Jan / The Faux Press 11 February 2008, 11:26 am

    A brief moment with the notion of media literacy: until and unless you MAKE motion pictures, you’ve no idea of their power.

    Very simple.

  • PurpleCar 11 February 2008, 11:40 am

    E-literacy and reading literacy are the skills to which I refer when I mention mastering various platforms. I’ve been following the e-literacy folks (many from England) for a while now, and they have a good point. Look them up here: http://www.ioct.dmu.ac.uk/

    But great links, thanks. And sure, we can always bring the passion level down in any argument or observation, but neutralizing the issue won’t get any progress made.

    My main point is that we must push ourselves to expand our creativity outwards, and pull new inspiration inwards. It is up to us to marry the world of highly literate people in the traditional sense of literacy, and the newly literate mavens in technology. The internet is built on languages and is shaped by human behavior. My instincts tell me that if we could get more writers hooked up with more social media people and vice versa, the internet, education, literacy and e-literacy will spread more quickly and efficiently. And yes, that is my evil plot, to get the world reading and get them on-line.

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