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Digital Era Terms and Expressions: Sharing Favorites

What’s in a word? A lot, more often than not! Language is a powerful reflection of the world in which we live and the realities we must embrace, a fluid and ever-changing reminder that neither time nor progress stands still. This post shares some of my favorite Digital Era terms and expressions and invites others to participate in a crowdsourcing exercise to expand the list.


Like other tranformational periods in history, the Digital Era has spawned its fair share of new terms and expressions. Today, people don’t think twice when they hear once-nonexistent words like email and internet, and they easily understand new meanings of terms like web, cellular, and tablet. Google has entered the vernacular as a verb, virtually (pun intended) achieving Kleenex or Coke status by becoming a generic term that’s used to refer to more than just the brand itself. And speaking of brands, who knew we’d be referring to new products and services with names like HootSuite, Spotify, Dropbox, Flickr, Yelp, and Tumblr?

As newer social and digital technologies become more fully integrated into our lives, commerce, and the larger culture, we’ve become increasingly comfortable saying things like ping me and message me, as well as ascribing new meaning to terms like friending, tweeting, linking, profile, page

The list of new terms and meanings is seemingly endless, as our language – and the ideas that the language we use conveys – continue to evolve. Earlier this year, I wrote “Social Media” is SO 2009! 7 Proposed Semantic Upgrades. Now I’d like to crowdsource a collection of Digital Era terms (new words, acronyms) and expressions (quotable quotes, bon mots) that goes beyond the basics to reflect some of the newer and/or more sophisticated phenomena we’re dealing with.

I’ll kick things off by sharing a somewhat random collection of some of my favorites. What are yours?

– Courtney Shelton Hunt

New Words and Acronyms

Cost of Inaction (COI): I’ve now lost track of who originated this term, but it’s a great concept to include in discussions of ROI (Return on Investment and other variations) in the context of digital engagement because it highlights the fact that “doing nothing” is not a risk-free option.

Denovati:The Denovati are “Digital Era explorers, pathfinders and immigrants who see to understand and effectively leverage new social and digital technologies.” Yes, it is our new brand identity (click here for details), but I would be remiss if I didn’t include it.

Jobgram: This term has been trademarked by a company in New Zealand that creates infographics and videographics that provide quick descriptions and realistic previews of jobs. They refer to what they do as “Next-level job advertising” and refer to the products they create as “visually engaging job opportunities.” Brilliant.

SMAC: On my personal favorite new terms is SMAC, which stands for social (software), mobile (devices and access), (data) analytics, and cloud (computing) and reflects the convergence among these technology movements. The term is short, comprehensive, catchy, and memorable – a descriptor that is as psychologically powerful as the movements it describes.

Technosapien: I learned this term from a commenter on a Fast Company article I read in 2012. To me it means a person who has a strong understanding of and facility with new technology. It’s kind of awkward, but its retro-scientific vibe appeals to me.

Tutoricle: This is actually the name of a blog site, but I love the idea of using the term more broadly to describe articles and blog posts that are focused on teaching something and/or providing how-to guidance. We could also have tutorigrams and tutoreos… 🙂

Videographic: Basically, an animated infographic. Interestingly, although the term is relatively new the idea may actually have preceded infographics. Erik Qualman’s classic socialnomics video (original version produced in 2009) comes to mind… Speaking of which, socialnomics is a great term in and of itself – as is his newer term (and related video) – mobilenomics!

Quotable Quotes and Bon Mots

It’s a Brave New World… Even if you want the old one back!

People often use “brave new world” to describe the Digital Era, but extending the idea is a reminder to laggards and Luddites and late adopters that the world they knew (and preferred) no longer exists.

Technology creation, adoption, and adaptation are fundamentally human endeavors.

There is such a strong tendency to anthropomorphize technology that it’s important to reinforce that it’s people who give it life and sustain it.

Technology doesn’t care how old you are.

I am not a big fan of the Digital Native/Digital Immigrant distinction. Although it’s important to recognize and respond to the growing digital divide, we have to be careful not to correlate age and digital competencies too strongly. It’s a language in which we all should strive to be fluent.

Saying social media is “just” a communications tool is like saying a nuclear power plant is “just” a way to turn on the lights.

I came up with this expression in response to the well-intentioned but misguided efforts of many earlier adopters to try to reduce the fear and perceived risks of using new technologies.

Simple doesn’t mean easy.

The relative simplicity of many social media platforms and tools can lead to a misconception that it’s relatively easy to learn how to use them efficiently and effectively. It’s not.

Related ideas: Strategy trumps tactics. and Technology is not a substitute for good judgment.

Digital engagement can be described ashours of tedium punctuated by moments of ‘Oh #@&(%!’”

A variant of the old pilot’s expression: Flying is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror

Everything in cyberspace is subject to change – often in an instant and without any warning!

A variant of a bumper sticker saying from the Quest Bookshop in Charlottesville, Virginia: Everything in the Universe is subject to change–and everything is on schedule!”

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