Why I just became a Digital Provocateur

Because what the digital world really needs is another new job title.

From now on, I am going to be calling myself a Digital Provocateur, not just because it sounds good, but because I’ve just invested some time trying to work out what I actually do.

When you get asked to speak at an event you have to dig out your bio and dust it off. For the last couple of years I have just cut-and-paste my Linkedin summary, added a paragraph or two to reflect the latest job I got sacked from and added a year or two to the ‘Mike has spent XX years in the media industry’ sentence.

This morning though, I thought it was time to re-write my bio from scratch, and that got me thinking.

People I meet at networking events, my therapist and my family would love it if I could just pin down what I do in a simple, catchy job title, like Digital Strategist, Creative Digital Consultant, the dreaded Transmedia Imagineer or, for my family especially, A Good Stable Job that Pays Regularly, but I’ve always struggled to find a job title that sums up all the stuff I do and I rarely get paid regularly.

Like many people in the digital market, I’ve bounced around a number of roles To one agency I was a Business Development guy - I think that’s because I always wear suits and I like lawyers. To other companies I was a Creative Consultant – mainly because I draw pictures. Then I started being described by others as a Digital Guru or most recently, The Old Man of New Media, neither of which I like the sound of. When I worked for a well-known UK trade association, I became a Policy Executive, actually a SENIOR Policy Executive – I did ask where all the Junior Policy Executives were and soon realised that the ‘Senior’ was as valuable as the V in Vice President.

None of these titles define what I actually do, so I drew up a list and figured that I am, if anything:

  • a passionate communicator about the good, the bad and the ugly of the content world
  • someone that gives a damn about the quality of the content we all make as an industry
  • a person that loves innovators and creators and likes to help them flourish
  • a Story-teller about the great work out there – sharing what’s possible and inspiring people to change the way they think about things.

All I needed now was a snappy job title that summed all that up.

A quick Google search threw up Technology Evangelist, which I’ve come across a few times. I love technology and I like to share, but it’s not just about the tech and beyond that, as an atheist the word Evangelist gives me a small moral issue. An Evangelist makes you sound like you’re preaching something that is right, will never change as is dogmatic, and I like to think I am a lot more flexible than that.

Thesaurus.com couldn’t really help with a non-religious synonym, although I felt drawn to Pulpiteera contemptuous preacher but that’s just about my own self-loathing.

I wanted a word that represented something of my bolshiness, something more Che Guevara and less Arch Bishop.  Googling for ‘revolutionary evangelist’ unearthed a chapter of an online book called Revenge of the Hackers, in which Eric Raymond one of the founders of the open source movement, describes himself as an Accidental Revolutionary, Accidental Digital Revolutionary perhaps? No, I’ve never really been a revolutionary when it comes to digital, more of an Evolutionist, and let’s face it if Lenin had asked nicely if we could just tweak a few things about the system he wouldn’t have scared anyone, much less achieved any change – for good or bad.

Google, without Safe Search lead me to Agent Provocateur. Quickly shutting that down, I looked up Provocateur now, here was a definition I could buy into, as could many of my ex-bosses, teachers and my family, a trouble maker and agitator, an agent for change.

Having found a word I liked I discovered it’s not all good news, scratch below the obvious connotation of the name and you find a pretty disreputable bunch of spies, anti-Semites and police operatives

Depending on your world view, Agent Provocateurs have often been employed by the bad/good guys to infiltrate revolutions or protest movements, which although I could find a few comparable situations in my CV, wasn’t exactly how I saw myself. Then it struck me, having spent the last few weeks binging on 6 seasons of 24 on Netflix, that Jack Bauer himself is an Agent Provocateur, embedding himself in terrorist gangs, drug smuggling cartels and the like and bucking the system to save the day by killing slightly less people than could have been killed had he not been involved (it’s 268 so far, and counting). If the title fits Jack Bauer, then it was good enough for me, and there is always a chance that I’ll improve my search engine optimisation chances when people go looking for new undies.

So, if you meet me at a conference or a networking do next year and ask me what I do, I will have an answer, “I am a Digital Provocateur”, I will say as I hand you my card, “you should employ me if you want to provoke creative, technological or market change.” And then I’ll vanish into the shadows, or the bar and you’ll be left thinking – “what the hell does one of those do?”

Links to my new profile on MWA, LinkedIn and Twitter

About the Author

Mike Dicks

Mike Dicks

Creative Digital Consultant, near future gazer, media sort of bloke. Co-Founder of the Media Writers Association @MWAMediaWriters, serial employee and employer