Social Media, Empowerment and Serious Research

I had a fantastic time at the AIIM conference in San Francisco last week, and Clay Shirky’s keynote was one of the highlights. This video of a TEDx talk by Ben Heywood of social media sharing site gives a moving example, quoted by Shirky, of the power of social media as a platform for gathering data, and with a research back-end, creating near real-time insight into treatment possibilities as well as empowering patients to deal more effectively with their own conditions. What I think nobody has noticed is the powerful role that a faceted taxonomy plays in this story. Visit the site and see if you can spot what facets are being used to pull data together for deep analysis as well as sharing and self-empowerment.

Underneath this is another emerging trend. We know that social media is being leveraged as a source of data for marketing and market analysis. This case illustrates how powerful it can be in the use of large scale data for new knowledge creation. Crucially, it cannot do this on its own – the formal world of research and the informal world of social media exchanges need to connect. Helping to span these boundaries is where knowledge organization tools like taxonomies play an essential role.

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