February 28, 2008
A woman loses her phone and recruits an army of volunteers to get it back from the people who stole it. It dissatisfied airline passenger spot is a national movement with her weblog. Citizens with camera phones outperform photojournalists documenting the London Transport bombings in the Indian Ocean tsunami. The world’s largest encyclopedia is created by unmanaged participants. A handful of kids in Belarus create a political protest that the state is powerless to stop…
Everywhere you look, you can see groups of people coming together to share with one another, work together, or take some kind of public action. A political protest in Eastern Europe seems unconnected to the shared creation of an encyclopedia or to the recovery of a mobile phone, but all of these effects in 1000 others have the same root cause: For the first time in human history, our communications tools support the group conversation and group action. Gathering a group of people and getting them to act used to require significant resources, giving the world’s institutions a kind of monopoly on group effort. Now, though, the tools for sharing and cooperating on a global scale have been placed in the hands of individual citizens.
In the same way the printing press amplified the individual mind and the telephone amplified two-way communications, a host of new tools, from instant messages and mobile phones to weblogs and wikis, amplify group communications. And because humans are natively good at working in groups, anything that amplifies group effort changes society. Business models are being transformed at a dizzying speed, and the larger social impact is so profound that it’s underappreciated. Now someone with a laptop can spark a movement that changes the fortunes of a billion-dollar industry or even helps topple a government.
In Here Comes Everybody Clay Shirky, one of the new cultures wisest observers, gives us his lucid and penetrating analysis on what the impact of the social revolution will be – for better or for worse – on what we do and who we are.
Clay Shirky writes, teaches, and consults on the social and economic effects of the Internet, and especially on those places where our social and technological networks overlap. He is on the faculty of NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, and is consulted for Nokia, Procter and Gamble, NewsCorp, the BBC, the United States Navy, and LEGO. Over the years, his writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review, Wired, and IEEE Computer, and he is a regular keynote speaker at tech conferences. Mr. Shirky lives in Brooklyn.