Social media and the work/play split

This one starts from a Tweet by social-media guru Oscar Berg:

  • oscarberg: Social media would be easier to introduce in organizations if it was called “collaborative media”

So easy to picture an angry boss yelling at employees around the water-cooler: “Oi! You lot – stop talking and get back to work! You’re paid to work, not socialise!”

But that tirade misses a key point: what is ‘work’ in the first place? For knowledge-work especially, what is the boundary – if any – between ‘work’ and ‘socialise’? Or, for that matter, between ‘work’ and ‘play’?

Do we work at a new idea? Or do we play with it?

Since all new ideas depend on other ideas, and in practice also depend on critique from others, when is it ours alone? How and when do we ‘socialise’ it? And is that ‘socialising’ work, or play?

‘Social’ means ‘with people’. ‘Collaborate’ literally means ‘to work together’. By definition, collaboration is social. Preventing people from ‘socialising’ in the name of getting more work done is usually an excellent way to prevent work being done: a strange behaviour for a nominal leader of work…

‘Collaborate’ means ‘to work together’. If there’s no real boundary between work and play, the exact analogue would be ‘to collude’ – ‘to play together’. Interesting, then, that ‘collude’ and ‘collusion’ often seem to have only negative connotations – kind of like ‘conspire’, which literally means ‘to breathe against’. Working together is good; playing together is bad: a strange twist of language, perhaps reflecting the dreaded Puritan hatred of pleasure, joy, creativity, laughter.

So yes, “social media would probably be easier to introduce in organisations if it was called ‘collaborative media'”. It would probably be much harder to introduce if it was called ‘collusive media’. For that matter, it might be easier if it was called ‘knowledge-exchange media’. And yet, in reality, they’re all the same: work, play, relate, learn. Just a difference in name; a word. Yet why does it make so much difference? Odd…

Just an idea to work with, anyway. Or play with. Or socialise, perhaps?

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