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KM 2.0 and Knowledge Management: Part 23, Defining “Social Media” and “Enterprise 2.0”

January 20th, 2009 · No Comments


Today, I’ll continue with definitions I need to clarify relationships among the members what I’ve been calling the “2.0 cluster.”

Social Media

The least clearly formulated idea in the “2.0 cluster” is “social media.” While the proliferation of definitions and conceptions surrounding this term is not yet as fulsome as with KM itself, the ambiguity surrounding this meme is already appreciable and might well approach KM before its popularity begins to decline. A recent, but still very incomplete cataloging of definitions of social media by Benedikt Koehler numbered 23 distinct definitions. These range from virtual synonyms of social software, to those that make no reference to software at all.

In its modern context “social media” is associated with tools that support social interaction and provide (to quote a definition offered by Brian Solis) “for the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. It is the shift from a broadcast mechanism to a many-to-many model, rooted in conversations between authors, people, and peers.” Part of this definition associates social media with the use of social software including Web 2.0 software to generate media content and intense social interactions. Later on, I’ll use this definition for my discussion, while making no claims that it’s even close to representing a consensus among social media practitioners, since no such consensus exists.

Enterprise 2.0

The person most closely associated with the Enterprise 2.0 meme is Andrew McAfee. He offered the earliest definition in May 2006, and then followed with a second definition which has been widely discussed since he presented it at the end of May 2006. It is: “Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.” By “platforms,” McAfee means “. . . digital environments in which contributions and interactions are globally visible and persistent over time.” By emergent he means: “the software is freeform, and that it contains mechanisms to let the patterns and structure inherent in people’s interactions become visible over time.” Finally, by “freeform” he means software whose use is “optional,” which is “free of upfront workflow,” which is “egalitarian, or indifferent to formal organizational identities,” and which is “accepting of many types of data.”

There are alternative definitions of Enterprise 2.0 out there, but McAfee’s definition has clarity and specificity to recommend it, and he resists strongly attempts to broaden its scope “to something like “all the interesting things that are happening in the enterprise software market.” This is a very good thing for anyone wishing to analyze the relationships of Enterprise 2.0 to other members of the “2.0 cluster” and to KM, because it minimizes any difficulty in distinguishing the E2.0 from other categories due to conceptual overlap.

Tags: KM 2.0 · KM Software Tools · Knowledge Integration · Knowledge Making · Knowledge Management