What is the difference between social media and collaboration?

I still don’t really know what the term “social media” is supposed to refer to — to me, the entire Internet is one big social medium. To this date, I have yet to hear a passable operational definition of the term “social media”. For all I know, it may even be roughly equivalent with “Wisdom of the Language” websites (as opposed to private or personal websites, or sites that are based on proprietary intellectual property). Yet all of that is to simply state that “social media” continues to be a rather murky term, if not even completely undefined.

Yet even though the term is still very nebulous, nonetheless I have a basic impression that it is distinct from collaboration. For me, these concepts have little if anything to do with one another — and yet I also have the vague impression that some people may consider the moniker “social media” as a sign that such online interaction is automatically collaborative.

Collaboration has a very controversial history. Because it seems to be a very “leftist” concept, it is almost guaranteed a lukewarm at best (and perhaps even a downright negative) reception in many western societies. Another negative connotation of the term “collaborateur” is that it was commonly used to indicate people who cooperated with the “Nazi” party during Hitler’s reign. Therefore, it is somewhat tinged with the notion of “selling out” or even profiting from close ties to a dictatorial power, perhaps even of an exploitative and particularly industrialist or extreme right wing nature.

“Collaboration” is, therefore, extremely laden with negative connotations — so much so, that it can be difficult to isolate what the term refers to in a denotational manner.

I have been wondering: What are prime examples of collaboration today? One that springs to mind is the way Google and the government of the United States work closely together. Another might be the co-operation between Microsoft and other computer software and hardware manufacturers. In earlier years, the General Motors company was also very much oriented towards a collaborative system, insofar as a large network of suppliers was integrated into the entire automobile manufacturing process. Yet all of these examples have extremely large multinational corporations at their center.

What are good examples of collaboration among smaller partners — and more decentralized partnership networks? The way I see it, there are not yet very many cases of such collaborative systems… — and yet I also feel that this is a business model with a great deal of potential. In its early days, it seemed like “twitter” might follow such a dectralized development path, but hopes along those lines have been dashed for years already. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of such collaborative development has been WordPress.ORG.

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