7 Archetypes for entering public disources through social media


Here are 7 strategies that students might adopt when engaging in public discourse through social media tools. I have tried to provide a conceptual framework to help them consider their first steps. I wanted to suggest tools that would be more suitable to a strategy then another but ultimately, I think most social media tools are equally applicable to each strategy (give or take). I’d love some feed back on this – is it clear? Is it somewhat helpful or interesting? Is there an 8th strategy that I have missed?

Archetypes / metaphors

1. Nomad
Description This strategy is used when you find an organization, blog, group, person or the like that you disagree with. Rather then create a site, organization or movement to oppose their message, a nomad goes into their infrastructure / forums to get his or her message across. You might post your disagreement on their website or the like. You can sustain your participation for as long as you like, and try to influence their opinion over time
Advantages Requires less time then other strategies, requires less understanding of web 2.0 tools, takes your message directly to those you disagree with and might change their mind. Also, everyone who reads your message will be interested in the topic and likely to engage you in discussion.
Disadvantages You must be careful – can be considered harassment or trolling if done wrong. You are likely to lose control of your posts, harder to influence target audience because they already have a contrary opinion that is likely based on some understanding. It is also harder to reach larger audience.


2. Wanderer
Description With this strategy, after learning a bit about your issue or topic, you wander about the internet adding comments or arguments to other people’s sites. You try to take advantage of other people’s structures and audiences to spread your point of view. It is like the nomad except that is is less advosarial. You are equally likely to help support people who agree with you as engage in debate those who do not.
Advantages You don’t have to build content or a site. You don’t have to spend time networking to find an audience. You can recycle your comments as you find new public spaces to comment.
Disadvantages Must consistently search for content to comment on. Can’t build your own audience or network. Hard to respond to responses to your comments.


3. Hunter/Gather
Description With this strategy, you build a site (blog, wiki, etc) by gathering and reposting the work of others. By aggregating many contributions to one place, you create a specialized area with many voices regarding your topic. It can create a powerful resource to effect public opinion.
Advantages You learn as you go – adding to your location, also adds to your knowledge. You utilize the expertise of a wide range of people. Content can be added quite quickly.
Disadvantages Some issues with intellectual property rights – be careful to give credit to others. Might be hard to build an audience – how do you get the word out? You might have a variety of opinions and not a clear message – just a lot of related topics.


4. Subsistence Farmer
Description Similar to the hunter gather strategy except you create the majority of the content yourself. This is a good strategy for people with a lot to say.
Advantages You have more control over the content and message. Things can be said exactly as you like. You create a stable platform where people can find unique content and opinions. You create a place where like minded individuals gather.
Disadvantages Takes a long time to write or build enough content to get people interested or to affect their opinions. You have to continue to provide content to keep people interested. It might be hard to gather an audience and network.


5. Co-op farmer
Description This is kind of a combination of the substance farmer and the hunter / Gatherer at first. You provide content and you can collect content from other sources. Eventually, you invite others to contribute original content as well. You may keep some editorial control, but on these kind of sites, people are also looking for freedom to express themselves
Advantages You aggregate audience with others; this helps you get your message or opinions out to more people.
Disadvantages With more people, comes more opinions and perhaps conflict. Also, as the host, you might be held responsible, to a varying degree, for the opinions of those who post on your site.


6. Small business
Description This is very like the subsistence farmer except your goal is to inspire or support action, not just to inform people or affect public opinion. You might advocate changing a behavour, a protest movement, or run a charity
Advantages Sometimes it is easier and more gratifying to see action taken at your suggestion then just trying to educate or influence people’s opinions. With this kind of site, you might more directly see action taken that you have inspired.
Disadvantages Actions can be dangerous if not done carefully. Consequences are often real and tangible; you might be held accountable. Might be more legal considerations – a charity that handles money has legal obligations and the like.


7. Public Company
Description Like the small business except you seek to gather a crowd of like minded individuals to help you run something a little larger
Advantages Aggregates peoples effort and people’s talents to create something larger then you could create on your own. You gain access to the networks and audience of others.
Disadvantages Often hard to get the right people together in the beginning. The bigger something is, the more complicated it will become. More people means more opinions of how things should be done. This type of organization will be hard to control once you start.

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