Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization

BY CLAY SHIRKY

Ever since Stewart Brand identified computer technology a revolutionary new tool of social change in the 1960s, pundits have sought to chart the evolving cyber-landscape and its dramatic, often unpredictable effects on society and culture. In Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization, Clay Shirky examines recent innovations that enhance, transform, and sometimes even harm networking and group dynamics. Ranging from the distant technological past — the organization of railroads and the birth of institutional hierarchies — to the eve-of-publication present (Twitter, one of his prime suspects, was only born during the composition of his study), Shirky builds a strong and exhilarating case for a true sea change in how people now relate to each other and pool their efforts. Anecdotal yet closely reasoned, the book maps how spontaneous assemblies — from Flickr photo-sharing groups to Wikipedia’s collaborations — are capable of achieving their goals in ways more efficient and egalitarian than provided by old institutions. Without minimizing the potential for pain in the process (?It?s not a revolution if nobody loses?), Shirky reaffirms his oft-quoted belief that ?the Internet runs on love? and makes the case that this primal emotion lies at the center of many new Internet phenomena, which are otherwise unexplainable. The author overlooks some developments supportive of his arguments (MUDs, geocaching, and SETI@home all come to mind); moreover, he focuses exclusively on the use of these tools by ordinary citizens. But what happens when the cops or a dictator embraces Twitter? On this, Shirky is lamentably silent. Perhaps he feels the very revolution he so knowledgably limns will self-correctingly deal with such outcomes.