I am sitting in the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel in New York City where nearly 100 years ago (95 to be exact) the Algonquin Round Table gathered. The Algonquin Round Table was a celebrated group of New York City writers, critics, actors and wits including Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx and others. They met daily here for lunch, exchanging the wit, commentary and ideas that helped launch many of them to national prominence. In its day, the Algonquin Round Table was, at its heart, a network of influentials who shared ideas with each other in one venue and then went on to share many of those same ideas with their broader networks elsewhere (via newspapers, magazines, film and stage). Ninety-five year later social media has become our new round table, albeit far more accessible.
As was the case of the Algonquin Roundtable, social media provides a gathering place for the exchange of ideas among the brightest minds of our day. World leaders, journalists, novelists, academics, comedians, and many other insightful elites are engaging with each other on the great (and not so great) issues of our day. But unlike the gatherings of the intellectual elite at the turn of the last century, the virtual round tables of the turn of this century offer ordinary people the opportunity to interact with the intellectual and cultural elites of our day via Twitter and other social media. And social networking venues offer new opportunities for ordinary folk to become the new, great influencers of our day. This democratization of influence means that anyone with insight into the problems we face can help shape how we perceive and respond to the world's great challenges.
And just to drive home how social media is the modern manifestation of the intellectual round tables of the past, it appears that the cats who rule the internet also rule the Algonquin. Viva meow!