According to Globalwebindex cited by Portada-online, “globally digital including social media and mobile internet usage now accounts for 57% of daily media time”. This has numerous implications for users, organizations, regulators, governments and society in general.

Whether we check in to oust someone else as the mayor of a place, we help friends and charities to find online ideas or financial support for their causes or whether we believe the internet to be a good place for creativity or quite the opposite, there is a theory or a concept for that. As a way of getting even deeper into the digital media vocabulary, we explored several of the theories explaining web culture during our fourth lecture. While some have a rather philosophical take on the internet, others can more directly be applied to marketing and the way organizations and people connect and relate to one another online.

We spoke therefore of the digital divide, the hive mind including crowdsourcing and Morozov’s Net Delusion, the cult of the amateur, technological determinism, fungineering/ gamification and the long tail. The first speaks about inclusion and access (including knowledge and resources), the hive mind emphasizes the value of collaboration.

Digital Divide

The digital divide is about inclusion and access including knowledge and resources, about the haves and havenots of the internet. It raises questions about fairness, about literacy and about the duty of organizations to cater for all their clients including those not connected or not digitally savvy. 21century challeges has some intriguing material and guest talks about the digital divide in the UK.

The Hive Mind

Overall the idea of the hive mind is a positive one, emphasizing the benefits of collaboration. Applied to the interent it highlights the advantages of connectivity, of working remotely and reaching out to people and communities that think alike without being bound to the traditional setup of offline organizations. Check Shirky’s (2008) book Here comes everybody (excerpts available on myBU) for more details.

In a way, the hive mind is a utopian idea about the internet and its power and implies the existence of an internet society (For more utopian ideas on the internet check this utopialist). But the existence of an internet society should raise questions about how this society exists, how is it regulated and how it operates. A dystopian view of the interent is thus in order and Morozov’s book The Net Delusion provides numerous examples of how the internet does not work for the greater good and how the internet promotes segregation instead of multiculturalism.

The internet (as technology is general) is not intrinsically good or bad. It depends on who uses it and their intentions.

The Cult of the Amateur

Formulated by Andrew Keen (2007), the cult of the amateur promotes an apocalyptic view of the internet suggesting that without standards, taste, and institutions to filter the content that the amateurs will produce, the internet will surely destroy us (check also Lessig’s review, especially his reaction to intellectual property claim Keen makes).  If you were to consider any of these 5 singers dubbed the next Rebecca Black , you could argue that Keen is right.

Technological determinism

This is very much about the relationship we have with technologies and whether technology drives what we do or vice versa. Neil Postmas’s Amusing Ourselves to Death is a particularly good read.


Think of Forthsquare, Farmville or any other online space with games-like features where the users get into a high state of concentration and engagement. Gamification is not easy. It requires a story-line, it needs to credible and it needs to grow gradually increasing the level of the challenge as the story progresses. Some great examples are here.

The Long Tail

Is mostly about segmentation and online communities. You can see Chris Anderson’s own explanation here.

Why these theories?

As you get ready to brainstorm ideas for your upcoming campaigns, it is very important for you to consider your role online, your rights and responsibilities online, your audience and its access to the messages and platforms you choose, and the risks and benefits of communicating online. These theories raise questions about all those concepts and more and aim to challenge you to remain critical about the internet as well as to stay away from assumptions (such as everyone is online, everyone gets the internet, once content is uploaded the users online will certainly come and contribute).

About Ana ADI

Professor of Public Relations/Corporate Communications @ | Researcher | PR & Social Media Consultant | Fulbrighter

One response »

  1. […] well. The lectures were very well attended, highly interactive and well received. I spoke about the Web Culture in the morning, a lecture that is quite central to the Digital Communication Strategies Unit I teach […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s