The 5 Cs of participation in online and social media

The 5 Cs of participation in online and social media: Arrows from Consume to Create to Curate to Consolidate to Collaborate.

The 5 Cs of participation in online and social media

I brought my computer, my iPad, my phone, a notebook, my Kindle, and a physical book. I knew I might not have Internet access. I was planning ahead for a disconnected evening by myself.

So here I am – I finished an audiobook, wrote some [possibly] meaningful blog posts, wrote a very short story, and now write another blog post. Is this how I should spend my time?

I am making a conscious effort to create instead of only consume. I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not, but it sounds good. I recently thought my way through different types of participation, especially in the context of social media, and I came up with the 5 Cs of participation (which someone else has likely articulated already; these are independent thoughts, though): Consume, Create, Curate, Consolidate, Collaborate. I placed them in this order on purpose – increasing level of difficulty and increasing value to the community.

If I simply Consume, I change myself (maybe), but no one else. At least not right away, and not directly.

If I Create, I’m sharing my own thinking with others. That’s good, but probably only if I’ve spent some time Consuming. If my thinking is brilliant and original, this might be more valuable than other forms of participation, but that would mess up my pretty visual.

Curation is very useful for a community – find the gold, and share it back out. Let the junk sink while you carry the good stuff to the surface. This is what retweeting is for. It can be much more useful than Creating – I have to thinking critically and reflectively when I Curate (if I do it well); I can Create a bunch of garbage pretty easily.

Consolidating multiple sources into a new, coherent, greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts product is very useful. I like to think that people do this to some extent whenever they Create, whether they realize it or not – their Creations are informed by what they have Consumed, and they make sense of those ideas, which makes their Creation a weak form of Consolidation. A strong Consolidation is deliberate – seeking out different sources, even conflicting ones, to make sense of them all and construct a new, greater idea.

And Collaboration is the most difficult, most rewarding, and often most useful. In a good Collaboration, members will Consolidate when they Create, and the multiple viewpoints can help to eliminate blindspots and biases.

So those are my 5 Cs. Likely there are more thoughtful, reasoned, research-based models, and I’ve read a little of them. Perhaps this is a Consolidation rather than a Creation. This is the perspective I have right now, and I’ll be happy to adjust it moving forward. That will depend on Conversation, which happens to start with C as well. :)


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