There is an ongoing debate at the moment about the virtues and vices of social media. Just this week, an article was published by The Telegraph claiming that ‘Twitter costs the British economy £1.38bn’, and then I hear, at a conference last week that Gloucestershire College used Facebook to develop a community of 600 students before they started college this September.
Being a fan of The Lord of the Rings, I couldn’t help but draw a comparison between this debate and the ‘council of Elrond’. In this analogy, the ‘ring of power’ represents web 2.0.
There are some, who, like Boromir, see it as a ‘gift’:
But who may be so enthusiastic that they cannot see that there may be some pitfalls along the way.
Others want to take a more heavy-handed approach, by, for example, banning the use of social media wholesale in the workplace. Like Gimli, they try to destroy it:
But this is futile. No matter how much you try to ban it, it’s still there.
The rash of news stories, positive and negative is like the argument between the members of the council:
Ultimately, the argument achieves nothing, while the ring remains on the table.
If you’ve seen the film/read the book, you’ll remember that Frodo offers to take the ring to Mordor. There is only one way he can do this, however, and that is with the help of others, in ‘the fellowship of the ring’:
In the Lord of the Rings, Boromir (the one who sees the ring as a gift) and Gimli (the one who wants to destroy it then and there) both end up as part of the fellowship. We need both voices, I think, but we can’t go on stubbornly ignoring each other.
We need to stop arguing and start collaborating. Some of us will have to speak up, like Frodo, and alert people to the fact that we can’t ignore the massive changes web 2.0 is bringing about: in the workplace, in learning institutions, in our personal life, in democracy, in the media… And the only way to make a path through all of this is to collaborate.
Which character do you think you are?
PS- by equating web 2.0 with the ring of power I am not saying that web 2.0 is evil – this is just an illustration!