Here Comes Everybody (I’m here too!)

Clay Shirky’s latest book, Here Comes Everybody:
The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
discusses how light-weight web-based
technologies like blogging, twittering and photo sharing sites like
Flickr result in real world actions.  Shirky talked about the book
at the Markle
on April 10.  I’m going to highlight
a new of Clay’s examples and then reflect on what I think his ideas
mean for traditional organizations. 

Clay cited Flickr, in particular, how the site’s discussion forums allowed folks to collaborate across time and space to produce documentation on photographic techniques.  People need not know one another–they just need to share an interest and a goal.  As he says, "Let’s make it easy for an individual to make a meaningful contribution with little effort." This patterns shows up in Linux and Wikipedia."   

In Egypt, activists use Twitter to keep tabs on one another, and watch to make sure that people don’t go silent.  If folks do go silent, the Twitter network establishes where someone is–which might result in a longer prison stay, but it’s less likely that the missing person will be abused or killed.  Shirky talked about how in less-free societies uses of the technology tend tS640x480
o be more important.  A so called "smart mob" in the west might organize in Central Park for a pillow fight, but in Belarus, they’re using technology to organize an seemingly innocuous ice cream social and then generating photographic evidence of just how repressive the Belarus government is.  What would Orwell make of this one?  Forget, " Big Brother is Watching You!"   We’re watching Big Brother, and we’re going to post his dirty deeds online for all to see.

Does technology make it possible to organize without an organization?  The evidence says yes.  One only need to look at groups forming on Meetup, Ning, or even Facebook to see folks organize online. I’m thinking about how the Educon 2.0 conference came together when a group of committed educators asked themselves if they could organize an event without major sponsorship–they did just that–and it was one of the most inspiring conferences I’ve ever had the privilege of joining.  I wondered if these virtual organizations might supplant non-profit for community groups, but in the same way that online commerce has augmented our commercial space, I think that online collaboration spaces will expand what brick and mortar non-profits do–the smart organizations use these tools do do more mission and involve new stakeholders.  I was heartened by Shirky’s talk and inspired by the examples he cites in his book.  Perhaps the most promising aspect of these technologies is that they facilitate us doing more good together. 

3 thoughts on “Here Comes Everybody (I’m here too!)

  1. Ryan

    I’m glad to see you blogging once again. Anyways, I do believe that all of these technologies will permit use to do more good as a group – we will not be stunned by distance. But I can’t but think that along will all of the potential good to be done, comes the potential bad that certain groups could create. But all in all, I’m more than willing to carry on doing what I’m doing despite all of that. I’m I’m sure there are many others who feel that way as well.

  2. Ted Bongiovanni

    Thanks Ryan. I’m grateful for the encouragement. At the talk, someone asked about folks using these tools for more sinister purposes. Clay responded that he’s not a Cyberutopian and went on to tell a story about how a certain teen site had to shut down their forums because they couldn’t get participants to stop posting how-tos on anorexia and bulima. The internet facilitates the spread of good and bad ideas. I like to think that there’s a lot more good ideas out there though and an excellent forum to address the bad.

  3. Ted B

    Where are the Fiction writers? They should be imagining today. Picturing internet speed unleashed, instant streaming videos like are reality in the schoools today, everyones’s creativity let to fly. You just may not have to know anybody anymore, or what of the other side of this?
    Saw a bit of “Annie” last week, will quality production bite the dust totally replaced by inside an elevator for forty eight hours? Good or bad?
    It’s a new generations decision, they will get what they ask for and just what will the world be like? There’s enough going on for some really good fiction on a middle school level. The people that have done such a great job so far are “old now.” Come on, let’s get going!!!
    Newberry medal or bust! Forget the high tech tricks, put the mouse to sleep, get a copy of scripsit and a Model III and really give us something.


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