Thought Leadership in a New Technology World - Dave's ADPR 6931 Emerging Media Blog
 Media studies, and those who conduct them, are generally concerned with the notion of thought leadership.  Wikipedia (this being a new media course, I think it’s appropriate to cite a wiki as an authoritative source) defines the term as “business jargon for an entity that is recognized for having innovative ideas.”  No doubt this is an appropriate general definition, but those with an academic interest in interpersonal communication use the term more broadly.  A researcher might (surely many have) seek to identify the origins of what we might call collective moral conscious or shared social sensibilities.  That origin or originator might be said to act as a “thought leader.”

I perceive a popular sentiment (which no doubt recurs each generation) that in the past Americans shared a closer-knit sense of purpose and identity than they do today.  In the proverbial rear view mirror, we see a nation unified by anthems like Over There, inspired by the notion that Uncle Sam wants you.  Then, a bit closer, we see a nation torn apart not by war itself, but by distrust – not simply of government, but distrust of the assumption that patriotism and faith are good ideas.  It seems perhaps that the big recent chapters in our history books – McCarthyism, Watergate and Vietnam, Janet Cooke and Jayson Blair – all point to the progressive loss of credibility by, frankly, any institution claiming to be a credible source of public information.  The result of this “rear-view algebra,” particularly among the up-and-coming Gen-Y Millennials, is the notion that faith is naïve, and that civic engagement equates to directed partisan misanthropy.

At the risk of making too great a leap – it seems to me this attitude is the result of a perceived dissension gap.  Reading a high school history book, one might get the impression that from the night of Thoreau’s imprisonment, Civil Disobedience seems to have gone into remission until Kent State.  I exaggerate of course – all one needs to do is follow the embarrassingly lengthy history of seditious libel law to see we have a long history of civic protest in this country. 

Regardless, there seems to be a correlation between two American narratives.  The first is this dissension gap.  The second is the emergence of digital media.  How does a generation rediscovering post-Vietnam civil and social dissent enact that process through media evolution?  The answer, I might guess wildly, is by operating through a network of individual participatory digital media and devices.  These modes of participation enable broader participation in daily citizenship.  If new generations of citizens generally distrust institutional thought leadership, and relish the individualization of political and social narratives (see: Sarah Palin,  American Idol winners, even Bill Cosby -individuals who were popularly vetted and elected from the ether to represent extra-institutional thought leadership), perhaps a sophisticated web-based communication system that emphasizes the individual is the way of the future.  Who knows, maybe cloud-computing will evolve into a political concept.  Which begs the question: who leads a thought cloud?

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