Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 7-8

Posted by tom | Apr 30, 2010

Cover of Carl Shirky. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing
Without Organizations. NY, NY: Penguin Press, 2008.Does Faster and faster, title of Chapter 7,* summarize your experience of speed of on-line communication?  Have you at times gotten run over by the volume of the communication or by groups coordinated via good communication (some version of a flash mob)?  I loved Clay Shirky's illustrations of the fall of the German Democratic Republic (1989), protests in Belarus (2006), German communication in Blitzkrieg (1940), the suprise punch of the Falun Gong (1999), dealing with flight delays, changes in loan stipulations, and Egyptain political activists.  Wanting to know more about Solving Social Dilemmas, I charged into Chapter 8.

Of course, Clay Shirky doesn't actually claim social tools can solve social dilmmas, instead he offers various ways in which social tools can amplify our ability to address them.  As a follower of Christ, I differ with his Tit-for-Tat approach to the extraordinary and daily use of the Prisoners' Dilemma.  We are to always confess and share the truth as part of our loving relationship with God.  Such a way of life supercedes our love of neighbor and self.  But I found his remedy to the concerns expressed by Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone (2000), quite on the mark.  Meetup is a great illustration of how affinity and proximity make a great match, particularly for those on the outside, seeking social opportunities. Due to Theresa's connections with MOPS, I'm not surprised that the most popular current group is Stay at Home Moms (SAHM).  But I would guess that Facebook's surge among SAHM has been taking a big chunk out of this audience. Can anyone give me insight on this topic?

Clay Shirky raises three issues regarding the new freedoms of on-line connection/assembly:

  1. loss of jobs to specialists who are displaced by mass amateurism
  2. loss of governmental (and journalistic) ability to control media output
  3. "Networked organizations are more resilient as a result of better commuication tools and more flexible soical structures, but this is as true of terrorist netwroks or criminal gangs as of Wikipedians or student protestors.  This third loss, where the harms are not merely transition, leads to a hard question:  What are we going to do about the neagive effects of freedom. ... It used to be hard to get people to assemble and easy for existing groups to fall apart.  Now asembling latent groups is simple, and the groups, once assemble, can be quite robust in the face of indifference or deven direct opposition from the larger society.  (In some cases, that very opposition can strengthen the group's cohesion, as with the Pro-Ana[rexic] girls.)  When it is hard to form groups, both potentially good and bad groups are prevented from forming; when in becomes simple to form groups, we get both the good and the bad ones.  This is going to force society to shift from simply preventing groups from forming to actively deciding which existing ones to try to oppose, a shift that parallels the publish-then-filter pattern generally. -- p.210-211.

*Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization (Clay Shirky. NY, NY: Penguin Press, 2008).

Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 1
Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 2
Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 3
Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 4
Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 5
Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 6

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