For me, one of the most interesting aspects of social media – or the emergence of the “social web” is the challenge that it presents to our sense of self – our identities as individuals, professionals, bloggers and amateur photographers. It provides opportunities for us to broadcast (podcasting), create movies (youtube) and publish (blogs/self published books) and so on. The power to create, distribute, filter and contextualise information has never before been in the hands of so many – this is what I call simple social media – though it is anything BUT simple in its execution.

It is the fragmenting or multiplying of identity that was explored this time last week at the inaugural Digital Citizens forum here in Sydney. Those who attended were treated to a truly open conversation, artfully curated by Bronwen Clune and panelled by visiting US lawyer Adrian Dayton (Social Media for Lawyers), Sam North (Ogilvy PR), Damian Damjanovski (BMF), and Renai LeMay (Delimiter).

The conversation jumped from panellist to panellist and out into the audience in a lively debate covering questions of law, ethics, identity, trust and copyright/intellectual property. There was some nice give and take, with some members of the audience taking the travelling microphone and debating points, raising questions and challenging not just the panel but the whole room. It was a lively topic and an appreciative crowd.

At times I expected a Citizen Kane style response, “You don’t realise you are speaking to two people” – with panellists contradicting themselves and audience members clearly enjoying the sense of theatre and opportunity for debate.

It is always difficult to know what to expect with any event like this – but there is no doubt that smaller, more intimate events like these are challenging the larger scale event/conferences. After all, at a certain point, we all have a desire to move beyond the hyperbole of the keynote and the blinding flash of never ending metrics. Social media is, after all, social. That means it will be inexact, moody and potentially mocking. These features are why many businesses find social media challenging – but in an event format – it makes social media compelling.

If you have a client who you want to “get” social media, the Digital Citizens events may well be the best introduction you could offer. It’s the cocktail party normally reserved for Twitter – just with people in the flesh. Mr Thatcher may never understand – but it’s a different world now. It’s the world of eCitizen Kane.