09/17/2010 05:27 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Social Media Week: Shift Will Happen

It's human nature to name things, so we had to come up with a name for what we turned around one day and discovered everyone else doing -- Tweeting, Facebooking, YouTubing, Digging, Etsying, You-Name-It-ing, basically platforming the hell out of the internet as a way to participate in the new conversations within networks, cultures and communities. Social Media is the name we've given the new modes of communicating.

From Sept 20-24, 2010, Social Media Week will be happening in five cities -- Bogota, Buenos Aires, L.A., Mexico City and Milan. (A choice of locations that seems at least as poetic as geographically rational). Following the format of the inaugural Social Media Week in 2009, each of the cities will host a week-long series of free-admission events that will include workshops, panels, performances and games designed to explore the subject of social media.

Participants in the 'generator' cities will carry the week's narrative over their own business and personal networks, and because these are some hefty networks we're talking about, millions of people will be participating at some point during the week.

And as we say in L.A., let's cut to the chase: Every event will undoubtedly pose the question new media types have had to ask since Grok showed Mok a spark from two flints and Mok said, "It's cool and all, but who's going to pay for it?"

I met the producer for Social Media Week in Los Angeles, Erick Brownstein of The New Agency, through BlobLive, a series of open-mic nights for entrepreneurs that combine live presentations in front of an audience with Twitter and videostreams to expand the possibilities for their seedling projects.

Erick and his team, Wendy Walz and Dawn Sinko, demonstrating how a few capable people with good social networking skills can work wonders, have organized a program of more than 70 events for Social Media Week in L.A., including:

-A discussion of how customers connect with restaurants and other local businesses using social media, hosted by UrbanSpoon and Postling;

-a geo-location workshop hosted by Rob Reed (a.k.a. @MaxGladwell) a prominent sustainability blogger;

-shows at the renowned improv theater Upright Citizens Brigade that are based on Facebook profiles and txt msgs;

-a 'Fandom' event moderated by the legendary 'fan-cademic' Henry Jenkins and hosted by the Cimarron Group, which does community building for major Hollywood films;

-the virtual fundraising "Twelethon" which will raise money for the Inner City Arts in Los Angeles;

-and parties, it wouldn't be social without parties, and lots of them. There's a beach party. A skating party. MTV is hosting a premiere party for its new online series, The Buried Life. Whether you're a Mad Man or a Roller Derby Doll, there will be a scene during Social Media Week for you.

I'm involved with several of the events for the week, including a workshop at USC to help aspiring science journalists improve their communication skills using improvisation, with NPR science reporter K.C. Cole, and Alan Alda, who will be teleconferencing from Stony Brook U. on Long Island. It is an extension of a program Alda has piloted with scientists at the Brookhaven National Lab. I'd be lying if I said I don't have butterflies about following Alda's act.

Social Media Week promises both an exploration of what we believe is possible, and a confrontation with the realities of the marketplace. It feels to me as if the vibe of the event will be more realistic than euphoric, less brag, more fact. We can't afford another bubble. This is not a technology play. This isn't the turn 'em and burn 'em game. This is about using the new tools to help bring about a fundamental and necessary shift in the way we interact with the world.

Mike Bonifer is the author of GameChangers -- Improvisation for Business in the Networked World and the CEO of GameChangers LLC.