Some generations have seen famine; some generations have seen flight. This generation is seeing the tidal wave of social media. From communication to collaboration and multimedia, from reviews and opinions to entertainment, social media has infiltrated the homes and lives of countless people seeking some form of informational interaction, for example, the popular networking site, Facebook.
Because of its low cost and easy accessibility, social media has become a burgeoning force in the world of Internet technology and has prompted the interest of some to promote the concept of “social media consultancy” within the walls of businesses, third party organizations, and academia.
Social media, with the help of the Internet, is an instantaneous, global, unrestricted, nonselective and alterable source where individuals can connect, create, share, and network. It is infinite and increases the power the common individual has to communicate as opposed to industrialized forms of information exchange, i.e., newspapers, radio, television, etc., which has been, as of late, the primary source of news and knowledge in the information economy. Industrialized media offered only a limited role for “nonmarket and nonpropietary” efforts wishing to participate in the information milieu, but as technologies and social implementations have evolved, so has the production of information exchange.
Yochai Benkler, author of “The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom,” observes that the “emergence of [this] new information environment, [is] one in which individuals are free to take a more active role than was possible in the industrial information economy of the twentieth century.” He goes on to state, “This new freedom holds great practical promise: as a dimension of individual freedom; as a platform for better democratic participation; as a medium to foster a more critical and self-reflective culture; and, in an increasingly information-dependent global economy, as a mechanism to achieve improvements in human development everywhere.”
If you are sold on the philosophical aspect of social media and its purposes, consider it a possible area of graduate study. Jon Hickman, of the Birmingham School of Media, Birmingham City University, believes so strongly in this means of information sharing and social networking, he has concocted a Master’s Degree program encompassing scholarly and scientific elements of social media. This new course opening September of 2009 offers a comprehensive examination of social media from “exploring and innovation in research,” to “interacting and disseminating ideas through websites, blogs, Twitter and other social media as well as networking events.”
“This MA programme will explore the techniques of social media, consider the development and direction of social media as a creative industry, and will contribute new research and knowledge to the field.” -The Birmingham School of Media
This graduate program will also consist of surveying social media from the approach of cultural studies, political economy, social enterprise and social media organizations, according to the school’s website.
Many educators and students alike have voiced their skepticism in such a degree as social media, stating that the premise for the program is not credible and is just as easily self-taught; its content does not justify a 48-week course and a tuition total of $6,200. However, many others defending the program claim that with the current, monumental changes happening to media, those with public relations, journalism, or electronic media degrees must, as a necessity, keep themselves apprised of the information evolution.