I just read an interesting article called “Social Currency” by Douglas Rushkoff. This guy really hits the nail on the head regarding the purpose of content to most people, both offline and online. Although the article is a bit dated (written in January 2001), the concepts he illustrates are still very relevant today.
We think of a medium as the thing that delivers content. But the delivered content is a medium in itself. Content is just a medium for interaction between people. The many forms of content we collect and experience online, I’d argue, are really just forms of ammunition — something to have when the conversation goes quiet at work the next day. An excuse to start a discussion with that attractive person in the next cubicle: “Hey! Did you see that streaming video clip at streamingvideoclips.com?”
Social currency is like a good joke. When a bunch of friends sit around and tell jokes, what are they really doing? Entertaining one another? Sure, for a start. But they are also using content — mostly unoriginal content that they’ve heard elsewhere — in order to lubricate a social occasion. And what are most of us doing when we listen to a joke? Trying to memorize it so that we can bring it somewhere else. The joke itself is social currency. “Invite Harry. He tells good jokes. He’s the life of the party.”
I couldn’t explain it better myself. Check out the rest of the article.