One of the most over used, dangerous and misunderstood words in the communications business today.
A concept that has seduced and bludgeoned us with its elixir.
I believe participation has been infected by the hubris of social media. Its intoxication is sapping the positive power that participation can invoke.
The curious thing is the absence of participation in a lot of work we see in advertising and marketing. It is summoned as inspiration, but rarely seen in action proper.
Some are drunk on it and others are addicted to its superficiality. And most have stopped at the first base of participation and neglected to pursue anything else.
I believe participation, as an enabling concept for brands to connect with consumers, needs a reset.
It needs to purge itself of the impurities of misrepresentation, misuse and misalignment.
But, what is participation exactly?
In the world of advertising and marketing we have reduced the definition and invocation of participation to a small transactional part in a larger play.
But participation is actually a bigger concept covering everything from ownership, philosophy, decision-making and economics. It actually means:
The action of taking part in something
The state of being related to a larger whole
Taking part and being related to a larger whole has changed. It may sound the same, but feels markedly different.
The old models and old values of participation have shifted.
Participation is a source ingredient for what Harvard Business Review calls ‘New Power’:
New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.
They argue that participation is an active force that is shaping new kinds of consumption: