Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

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by Clay Shirky
     
 

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Read Clay Shirky's posts on the Penguin Blog.

A revelatory examination of how the wildfirelike spread of new forms of social interaction enabled by technology is changing the way humans form groups and exist within them, with profound long-term economic and social effects-for good and for ill
A handful of kite hobbyists scattered around the

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Overview

Read Clay Shirky's posts on the Penguin Blog.

A revelatory examination of how the wildfirelike spread of new forms of social interaction enabled by technology is changing the way humans form groups and exist within them, with profound long-term economic and social effects-for good and for ill
A handful of kite hobbyists scattered around the world find each other online and collaborate on the most radical improvement in kite design in decades. A midwestern professor of Middle Eastern history starts a blog after 9/11 that becomes essential reading for journalists covering the Iraq war. Activists use the Internet and e-mail to bring offensive comments made by Trent Lott and Don Imus to a wide public and hound them from their positions. A few people find that a world-class online encyclopedia created entirely by volunteers and open for editing by anyone, a wiki, is not an impractical idea. Jihadi groups trade inspiration and instruction and showcase terrorist atrocities to the world, entirely online. A wide group of unrelated people swarms to a Web site about the theft of a cell phone and ultimately goads the New York City police to take action, leading to the culprit's arrest.

With accelerating velocity, our age's new technologies of social networking are evolving, and evolving us, into new groups doing new things in new ways, and old and new groups alike doing the old things better and more easily. You don't have to have a MySpace page to know that the times they are a changin'. Hierarchical structures that exist to manage the work of groups are seeing their raisons d'tre swiftly eroded by the rising technological tide. Business models are being destroyed, transformed, born at dizzying speeds, and the larger social impact is profound.

One of the culture's wisest observers of the transformational power of the new forms of tech-enabled social interaction is Clay Shirky, and Here Comes Everybody is his marvelous reckoning with the ramifications of all this on what we do and who we are. Like Lawrence Lessig on the effect of new technology on regimes of cultural creation, Shirky's assessment of the impact of new technology on the nature and use of groups is marvelously broad minded, lucid, and penetrating; it integrates the views of a number of other thinkers across a broad range of disciplines with his own pioneering work to provide a holistic framework for understanding the opportunities and the threats to the existing order that these new, spontaneous networks of social interaction represent. Wikinomics, yes, but also wikigovernment, wikiculture, wikievery imaginable interest group, including the far from savory. A revolution in social organization has commenced, and Clay Shirky is its brilliant chronicler.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Clear thinking and good writing about big changes." -Stewart Brand "Clay Shirky may be the finest thinker we have on the Internet revolution, but Here Comes Everybody is more than just a technology book; it's an absorbing guide to the future of society itself. Anyone interested in the vitality and influence of groups of human beings -from knitting circles, to political movements, to multinational corporations-needs to read this book." -Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good for You and Emergence "How do trends emerge and opinions form? The answer used to be something vague about word of mouth, but now it's a highly measurable science, and nobody understands it better than Clay Shirky. In this delightfully readable book, practically every page has an insight that will change the way you think about the new era of social media. Highly recommended." -Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine and author of The Long Tail "In story after story, Clay masterfully makes the connections as to why business, society and our lives continue to be transformed by a world of net- enabled social tools. His pattern-matching skills are second to none." -Ray Ozzie, Microsoft Chief Software Architect "Clay has long been one of my favorite thinkers on all things Internet— not only is he smart and articulate, but he's one of those people who is able to crystallize the half-formed ideas that I've been trying to piece together into glittering, brilliant insights that make me think, yes, of course, that's how it all works." —Cory Doctorow, co-editor of Boing Boing and author of Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present.
Publishers Weekly

Blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 accoutrements are revolutionizing the social order, a development that's cause for more excitement than alarm, argues interactive telecommunications professor Shirky. He contextualizes the digital networking age with philosophical, sociological, economic and statistical theories and points to its major successes and failures. Grassroots activism stands among the winners-Belarus's "flash mobs," for example, blog their way to unprecedented antiauthoritarian demonstrations. Likewise, user/contributor-managed Wikipedia raises the bar for production efficiency by throwing traditional corporate hierarchy out the window. Print journalism falters as publishing methods are transformed through the Web. Shirky is at his best deconstructing Web failures like "Wikitorial," the Los Angeles Times's attempt to facilitate group op-ed writing. Readers will appreciate the Gladwellesque lucidity of his assessments on what makes or breaks group efforts online: "Every story in this book relies on the successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users." The sum of Shirky's incisive exploration, like the Web itself, is greater than its parts. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
With newfangled technology like cell-phone photography and Internet bloggery, the course of human events is entering a new epoch, a networking guru informs us. Today, active groups can form where such formations were once impossible, declares Shirky (Interactive Telecommunications Group/NYU). Such modern configurations of power based on the free exchange of information can change society. So toss out all those old organization charts: The Internet, according to the author's facts, figures and theories, offers organization without management, networking without hierarchy. There is no institutional overhead, no cost in failure. Now we can publish before editing, Wikipedia being the prime example. In this new modality, victims of an abusive priest find redress together, stay-at-home moms consult communally, networking terrorists plot evil and anorexic teens confer on ways to starve. Collective action is almost effortless, and evanescent flash-mob events are easy to organize, often to the consternation of authorities. Viral networking can spread like the flu, distant conversation is as simple as pecking on a keyboard and everyone can be a journalist, a publisher, an encyclopedia editor. Shirky, with his illustrative anecdotes, provides back stories for latter-day groupies who log onto Flickr, Meetup, Groklaw and those sometimes fleeting wikis. He clearly applies the theories of power-law distribution and collective action, though as the discussion turns to Coasean Theory or the thoughts of Vilfredo Pareto it leans a bit toward the didactic. All that's needed, says the author, is the promise of a useful outcome, appropriate tools and agreement of participants to afford a platform fornetworking groups, like Archimedes, to move the world. Some wise observations amidst a predominantly old-news text.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143114949
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/24/2009
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
466,408
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

New Leverage for Old Behaviors

Human beings are social creatures—not occasionally or by accident but always. Sociability is one of our lives as both cause and effect. Society is not just the product of its individual members; it is also the product of its constituent groups. The aggregate relations among individuals and groups, among individuals within groups, and among groups forms a network of astonishing complexity. We have always relied on group effort for survival; even before the invention of agriculture, hunting and gathering required coordinate work and division of labor. You can see an echo of our talent for sociability in the language we have for groups; like a real-world version of the mythical seventeen Eskimo words for snow, we use incredibly rich language in describing human association. We can make refined distinctions between a corporation and a congregation, a clique and a club, a crowd and a cabal. We readily understand the difference between transitive labels like "my wife's friend's son" and "my son's friend's wife, " and this relational subtlety permeates our lives. Our social nature even shows up in a negation. One of the most severe punishments that can be meted out to a prisoner is solitary confinement; even in a social environment as harsh and attenuated as prison, complete removal from human contract is harsher still.

Our social life is literally primal, in the sense that chimpanzees and gorillas, our closest relatives among the primates, are also social. (Indeed, among people who design software for group use, human social instincts are sometimes jokingly referred to as the monkey mind.) But humans go further than any of our primate cousins: our groups are larger, more complex, more ordered, and longer lived, and critically, they extend beyond family ties to include categories like friends, neighbors, colleagues, and sometimes even strangers. Our social abilities are also accompanied by high individual intelligence. Even cults, the high-water mark of surrender of individuality to a group, can't hold a candle to a beehive in terms of absolute social integration; this makes us different from creatures whose sociability is more enveloping than ours.

This combination of personal smarts and social intuition makes us the undisputed champions of the animal kingdom in flexibility of collective membership. We act in concert everywhere, from simple tasks like organizing a birthday party 9itself a surprisingly complicated task) to running an organization with thousands or even millions of members. This skill allows groups to tackle tasks that are bigger, more complex, more dispersed, and of longer duration than any person could tackle alone. Building an airplane or a cathedral, performing a symphony or heart surgery, raising a barn or razing a fortress, all require the distribution, specialization, and coordination of many tasks among many individuals, sometimes unfolding over years or decades and sometimes spanning continents.

We are so natively good at group effort that we often factor groups out of our thinking about the world. Many jobs that we regard as the province of a single mind actually require a crowd. Michelangelo had assistants paint part of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Thomas Edison, who had over a thousand patents in his name, managed a staff or two dozen. Even writing a book, a famously solitary pursuit, involves the work of editors, publishers, and designers; getting this particular book into your hands involved additional coordination among printers, warehouse managers, truck drivers, and a host of others in the network between me and you. Even if we exclude groups that are just labels for shared characteristics (tall people, redheads), almost everyone belongs to multiple groups based on family, friends, work, religious affiliation, on and on. The centrality of group effort to human life means that anything that changes the way groups function will have profound ramifications for everything from commerce and government to media and religion.

One obvious lesson is that new technology enables new kinds of group-forming. The tools Evan Guttman availed himself of were quite simple—the phone itself, e-mail, a webpage, a discussion forum—but without them the phone would have stayed lost. Every step of the way he was able to escape the usual limitations of private life and to avail himself of capabilities from various professional classes to the general public is epochal, built on what the publisher Tim O'Reilly calls 'an architecture of participation."

When we change the way we communicate, we change society. The tools that a society uses to create and maintain itself are as central to human life as a hive is to bee life. Though the hive is not part of any individual bee, it is part of the colony, both shaped by and shaping the lives of its inhabitants. The hive is a social device, a piece of bee information technology that provides a platform, literally, for the communication and coordination that keeps the colony or from their shared, co-created environment. So it is with human networks; bee hives, we make mobile phones.

But mere tools aren't enough. The tools are simply a way of channeling existing motivation. Evan was driven, resourceful, and unfortunately for Sasha, very angry. Had he presented his mission in completely self-interested terms ("Help my friend save 4300!") or in unattainably general ones ("Let's fight theft everywhere!"), the tools he chose wouldn't have mattered. What he did was to work out a message framed in big enough terms to inspire interest, yet achievable enough to inspire confidence. (This sweet spot is what Eric Raymond, the theorist of open source software, calls "a plausible promise.") Without a plausible promise, all the technology in the world would be nothing more than all the technology in the world.

As we saw in the saga of the lost Sidekick, getting the free and ready participation of a large, distributed group with a variety of skills—detective work, legal advice, insider information from the police to the army—has gone from impossible to simple. There are many small reasons for this, both technological and social, but they all add up to one big change; forming groups has gotten a lot easier. To put it in economic terms, the costs incurred by creating a new group or joining an existing one have fallen in recent years, and not just by a little bit. They have collapsed. ("Cost" here is used in the economist's sense of anything expended—money, but also time, effort, or attention.) One of the few uncontentious tenets of economics is that people respond to incentives. If you give them more of a reason to do something, they will do more of it, and if you make it easier to do more of something they are already inclined to do, they will also do more of it.

Why do the economics matter, though? In theory, since humans have a gift for mutually beneficial cooperation, we should be able to assemble as needed to take on tasks too big for one person. If this were true, anything that required shared effort—whether policing, road construction, or garbage collection—would simply arise out of the motivations of the individual members. In practice, the difficulties of coordination prevent that from happening. (Why this is so is the subject of the next chapter.)

But there are large groups. Microsoft, the U.S. Army, and the catholic Church are all huge, functioning institutions. The difference between an ad hoc group and a company like Microsoft is management. Rather than waiting for a group to self-assemble to create software, Microsoft manages the labor of its employees. The employees trade freedom for a paycheck, and Microsoft takes the cost of directing and monitoring their output. In addition to the payroll, it pays for everything from communicating between senior management and the workers (one of the raisons d'etre for middle management) to staffing the human resources department to buying desks and chairs. Why does Microsoft, or indeed any institution, tolerate these costs?

They tolerate them because they have to; the alternative is institutional collapse. If you want to organize the work of even dozens of individuals, you have to manage them. As organizations grow into the hundreds or thousands, you also have to manage the managers, and eventually to manage the managers' managers. Simply to exist at that size, an organization has to take on the costs of all that management. Organizations have many ways to offset those costs—Microsoft uses revenues, the army uses taxes, the church uses donations—but they cannot avoid them. In a way, every institution lives in a kind of contradiction: it exists to take advantage of group effort, but some of its resources are drained away by directing that effort. Call this the institutional dilemma—because an institution expends resources to manage resources, there is a gap between what those institutions are capable of in theory and in practice, and the larger the institution, the greater those costs.

Here's where our native talent for group action meets our new tools. Tools that provide simple ways of creating groups lead to new groups, lots of new groups, and not just more groups but more kinds of groups. We've already seen this effect in the tools that Evan used—a webpage for communicating with the world, instant messages and e-mails by the thousands among his readers, and the phone itself, increasingly capable of sending messages and pictures to groups of people, not just to a single recipient (the historical pattern of phone use).

If we're so good at social life and shared effort, what advantages are these tools creating? A revolution in human affairs is a pretty grandiose thing to attribute to a ragtag bunch of tools like email and mobile phones. E-mail is nice, but how big a deal can it be in the grand scheme of things? The answer is, "Not such a big deal, considered by itself." The trick is not to consider it by itself. All the technologies we see in the story of Ivanna's phone, the phones and computers, the e-mail and instant messages, and the web pages, are manifestations of a more fundamental shift. We now have communications tools that are flexible enough to match our social capabilities, and we are witnessing the rise of new ways of coordinating action that take advantage of that change. These communications tools have been given many names, all variations on a theme: "social software," "social media," "social computing," and so on. Though there are some distinctions between these labels, the core idea is the same: we are living in the middle of a remarkable increase in our ability to share, to cooperate with one another, and to take collective action, all outside the framework of traditional institutions and organizations. Though many of these social tools were first adopted by computer scientists and workers in high-tech industries, they have spread beyond academic and corporate settings. The effects are going to be far more widespread and momentous than just recovering lost phones.

By making it easier for groups to self-assemble and for individuals to contribute to group effort without requiring formal management (and its attendant overhead), these tools have radically altered the old limits on the size, sophistication, and scope of unsupervised effort (the limits that created the institutional dilemma in the first place). They haven't removed them entirely—issues of complexity still loom large, as we will see—but the new tools enable alternate strategies for keeping that complexity under control. And as we would expect, when desire is high and costs have collapsed, the number of such groups is skyrocketing, and the kinds of effects they are having on the world are spreading.

The Tectonic Shift

For most of modern life, our strong talents and desires for group effort have been filtered through relatively rigid institutional structures because of the complexity of managing groups. We haven't had all the groups we've wanted, we've simply had all the groups we could afford. The old limits of what unmanaged and unpaid groups can do are no longer in operation; the difficulties that kept self-assembled groups from working together are shrinking, meaning that the number and kinds of things groups can get done without financial motivation or managerial oversight are growing. The current change, in one sentence, is this: most of the barriers to group action have collapsed, and without those barriers, we are free to explore new ways of gathering together and getting things done.

George W.S. Trow, writing about the social effects of television in Within the Context of No Context, described a world of simultaneous continuity and discontinuity:

Everyone knows, or ought to know, that there has happened under us a Tectonic Plate Shift […;] the political parties still have the same names; we still have a CBS, and NBC, and a New York Times; but we are not the same nation that had those things before.

Something similar is happening today, with newer tools. Most of the institutions we had last year we will have next year. In the past the hold of those institutions on public life was irreplaceable, in part because there was no alternative to managing large-scale effort. Now that there is competition to traditional institutional forms for getting things done, those institutions will continue to exist, but their purchase on modern life will weaken as novel alternatives for group action arise.

This is not to say that corporations and governments are going to wither away. Though some of the early utopianism around new communications tools suggested that we were heading into some sort of post-hierarchical paradise, that's not what's happening now, and it's not what's going to happen. None of the absolute advantages of institutions like businesses or schools or governments have disappeared. Instead, what has happened is that most of the relative advantages of those institutions have disappeared—relative, that is, to the direct effort of the people they represent. We can see signs of this in many places: the music industry, for one, is still reeling from the discovery that the reproduction and distribution of music, previously a valuable service, is now something their customers can do for themselves. The Belarusian government is trying to figure out how to keep its young people from generating spontaneous political protests. The catholic Church is facing its first prolonged challenge from self-organized lay groups in its history. But these stories and countless others aren't just about something happening to particular business or governments or religions. They are also about something happening to the world.

Group action gives human society its particular character, and anything that changes the way groups get things done will affect society as a whole. This change will not be limited to any particular set of institutions or functions. For any given organization, the important questions are 'When will the change happen?" and "What will change?" The only two answers we can rule out are never, and nothing. The ways in which any given institution will find its situation transformed will vary, but the various local changes are manifestations of a single deep source: newly capable groups are assembling, and they are working without the managerial imperative and outside the previous strictures that bounded their effectiveness. These changes will transform the world everywhere groups of people come together to accomplish something, which is to say everywhere.

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What People are saying about this

Clear thinking and good writing about big changes. --Stewart Brand

Clay Shirky may be the finest thinker we have on the Internet revolution, but Here Comes Everybody is more than just a technology book; it's an absorbing guide to the future of society itself. Anyone interested in the vitality and influence of groups of human beings -- from knitting circles, to political movements, to multinational corporations -- needs to read this book. --Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good for You and Emergence

How do trends emerge and opinions form? The answer used to be something vague about word of mouth, but now it's a highly measurable science, and nobody understands it better than Clay Shirky. In this delightfully readable book, practically every page has an insight that will change the way you think about the new era of social media. Highly recommended. --Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine and author of The Long Tail

Clay has long been one of my favorite thinkers on all things Internet -- not only is he smart and articulate, but he's one of those people who is able to crystallize the half-formed ideas that I've been trying to piece together into glittering, brilliant insights that make me think, yes, of course, that's how it all works. --Cory Doctorow, co-editor of Boing Boing and author of Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present

In story after story, Clay masterfully makes the connections as to why business, society and our lives continue to be transformed by a world of net-enabled social tools. His pattern-matching skills are second to none. --Ray Ozzie, Microsoft Chief Software Architect

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Meet the Author

Clay Shirky teaches at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, where he researches the interrelated effects of our social and technological networks. He has consulted with a variety of Fortune 500 companies working on network design, including Nokia, Lego, the BBC, Newscorp, Microsoft, as well as the Library of Congress, the U.S. Navy, and the Libyan government. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London, Harvard Business Review, Business 2.0, and Wired, and he is a regular keynote speaker at tech conferences. Mr. Shirky lives in Brooklyn.

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Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
Author Clay Shirky tackles a daunting task: He sets out to explain how new electronic media are transforming society. In itself, that sounds common enough, but Shirky¿s focus and specificity raise his book to a level of much greater value and utility than its peers. He examines the social nature of human beings, and analyzes how tools ranging from e-mail to text messages change the way people organize into groups. His style is easy, and he tells vivid, interesting and highly convincing stories to illustrate the changes he observes. The result is a book that anyone dealing with group organization and communication should read. getAbstract recommends this innovative work to marketers, social critics, readers interested in human nature, and entrepreneurs who hope to tap into or develop new social structures.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In his book, Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky explores the many effects that technological advancements have had on developing social structures as well as on how people communicate, assemble and cooperate. With each chapter, Shirky describes something new that could not have been developed without the Internet: Wikipedia, Flickr, Blogger, Facebook, and Twitter. These tools can be used for sharing news, updates, and photos. People are now able to inform the public of any major news with the click of a button. These developments also created new ways to organize groups for anything from parties to protests to business related planning. Still, Shirky explains, society and businesses will continue to be transformed by evolving social tools. Shirky explains the value of hierarchical organization and how it lead to revolutionized forms of management structure. The Web then further developed easier ways of forming large groups of say, thousands. The Web has also introduced new publishing methods for everybody to share pieces of work no matter how small or professional—whether they be news articles or mere journal/diary entries.   Old limitations on the media have been drastically reduced. Stories can now go from local to global in moments. Shirky explains the case of Ivanna, a woman who left her phone in the back of a New York City cab and was receiving threats from the founder for trying to retrieve it. It took a constantly updated blog, ten days and a million followers to get the NYPD on her side and retrieve the stolen phone. Forming groups has gone from impossible to simple and can accomplish enormous tasks as making a lost phone front page news. The overall ways that people assemble and cooperate are changing.  This trade book was engaging because while reading, I realized that this change and its effects are real, and they are all around us. As more people and companies take advantage of developing communication mechanisms, the professionalism behind many positions, and even the need for them, is questioned. The spread of literacy and movable type in the late 1400s, for instance, depleted the need for scribes; it was the rarity of the skill that made it so essential. Similarly, the emergence of weblogs initiated an era in which everyone writes their own news—putting into question what makes journalism, journalism, and what is considered news. People are now able to generate their own content without the use of professionals; the author refers to this as a process of “mass amateurization,” as opposed to one of mass professionalization. There is no skill level requirement for posting your photographs hence the terms amateur journalist and amateur photographer. It is undeniable that this is happening and it is everywhere.  On a broader scale, online organizations known for posting job listings, classified ads, and real estate such as eBay and Craigslist have taken over a lot of what keeps newspapers viable. “The Web didn’t introduce a new competitor into the old ecosystem…The Web created a new ecosystem” (Shirky 56). I agree with Clay Shirky—the Web introduced a whole new platform through which people can work and share whether for business or for pleasure. On the other hand though, the Web developed an entirely new level of competition that nearly makes newspaper organizations, for example, obsolete.  This idea of society evolving as a result of new electronic media seems so simple and obvious, but the way Shirky explains it is really eye-opening. His examples and crystal clear analysis prove his points, and the way he pieces things together is riveting. Clay Shirky is raising awareness to this movement—exploring the many results of advancements in technology and communication. A great read; five stars for sure. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky, I can say that Shirky delivered both relatable and informative to readers. One of Shirky’s objectives in writing the book, was to demonstrate the power that technology and motivation have on the organization of groups of people. Every day it’s becoming easier to form connections with mass amounts of people; this is because we have technology at our fingertips that make it cheap, quick and easy to send information and communicate with others. This, in turn, increases our desire to form certain groups based on the type of information we are relaying. Another objective, was to show that there are also dilemmas and problems that groups are faced with when forming. Overall, though, Skirky wanted to illustrate that groups can do a lot of good for the world and ultimately make a difference. The readers that this book appeal to are not solely those of a small audience or specialized group. The book reaches out to companies, both big and small, that seek to connect people and the clusters they fall into. It also appeals to journalists, both professional and citizen, who rely on technology to relay news to others. Finally, I believe the book can cater to anyone who has used technology as a social media tool because chances are, they will find much of the content in this book to be not only useful, but familiar. That is why I believe this book will undoubtedly open the eyes of many readers to the power that functioning groups have already had in their own lives. Shirky relies heavily on real-life and historical examples to bolster his arguments. One of his main arguments is that in the technology-fueled world we live in today, it’s now easier than ever to self-assemble groups and contribute to a common goal. This argument is supported well by Shirky in the first chapter as he tells the story of a lost Sidekick phone. Through the use of social media, contacts and motivation, Evan was able to retrieve the Sidekick. His situation reached people all over the web who were willing to offer legal advice, detective work and support to ultimately get the phone back to the rightful owner. Shirky is successful in his support of the argument because he stresses how, although a lost or stolen phone is a common occurrence, there are certain factors that make this story unique and ultimately one that works out in the favor of the Sidekick’s owner, Ivanna. Evan was relentless and steadfast in setting up a webpage for the lost phone, opening up a forum for people to discuss the incident and updating his audience along the way. All of this ultimately gave people an incentive to spread the story to others until eventually, it aired on major news networks. This ultimately lead to the NYPD getting involved in retrieving the phone. This story is a prime example of how “We are living in the middle of a remarkable increase in our ability to share, to cooperate with one another, and to take collective action, all outside the framework of traditional institutions and organizations,” (Shirky, 20-21). Another main argument of Shirky’s, was that the undertaking of a group can be seen as a three-rung ladder, the rungs being: sharing, collection and cooperative action. All the rungs are “enabled or improved by social activities” (Shirky, 49). Shirky does well to explain the metaphorical example further to show how the rungs are set in order of difficultly. Sharing is the easiest because it requires minimal effort and few demands on those participating. Shirky uses the site Flickr as an example of how people can easily share photos with other people. The next rung on the ladder, collection, is harder than sharing because it takes into account other people’s behaviors. Synchronization must happen with the people in the group. The example that Shirky uses is when there are conversations in the comments section of a YouTube video; many times users will comment negatively towards each other and often veer off topic. This is something any of us YouTube users can relate to first-hand as we scroll through comments that are often eye-roll worthy. The last rung is collaboration and it’s the most difficult because it involves every member of the group to agree and commit to a course of action. This is especially difficult since members will all have individual concerns of their own, yet what will make the group succeed is when everyone comes together in unison and agreement. Overall, Shirky’s use of a simple ladder metaphor makes his ideas easy to comprehend. A last argument of Shirky’s, was that all groups will undoubtedly face social dilemmas but in order to succeed, a group must have a promise, a tool and a bargain. The promise is what can be gained by the participants if they engage in whatever activity is being asked of them. “The promise creates the basic desire to participate” (Skirky, 261). Shirky uses the example of Wikipedia, a successful site - much of which is due to the effectiveness of its promise, which is for participants to get the opportunity to contribute something to an article and have it last for others to read. This is an effective example because anyone can browse the Wikipedia site and see firsthand how they, too, can directly contribute to an article.The next step in maintaining a functioning group is to pick the right tool to use. Skirky stresses how technology as a tool in general isn’t enough - it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ deal since there are different tools effective for different jobs. In figuring out which tools should be used for the group of people you are supporting, Shirky states that two questions must be asked, “ ‘Does the group need to be small or large?’ and ‘Does it need to be short-lived or long-lived?’ “(Shirky, 266). Once there is a promise and the right tools, Shirky states that the last step is the bargain. The bargain is difficult because it is “the least explicit aspect and in part because it is the one that users have the biggest hand in creating” (Shirky, 270). An example of a one-sided bargain that Shirky gives, would be when there is a flash mob; the bargain is, if a group of people show up to a designated place at a specific time doing what they are are told to do, then they will receive the desired reaction from the crowd. His use of the flash mob example is effective because it makes us as readers realize that the type of social tool used depends on the purpose and intent of the group being formed. Based on Shirky’s arguments and the success of the support he uses for these arguments, I definitely appreciated this book and the messages it conveyed about the power and function of groups today. It wasn’t a dry or mundane read and it kept me interested with the multiple uses of real life examples, current events and anecdotes. In this way, readers of different demographics would definitely be able to make the connection between the ideals presented in the book and the actions they carry out in their own lives. The book also definitely convinced me that the power of groups will only continue to grow since new social tools are being invented continually.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Clay Shirky has a very good grasp of how the internet, and particularly social media, is changing society. It is a revolution no less seismic than the invention of the printing press and it portends a period of chaos as we re-shift to this new reality. Shirky describes the collapsed cost of organization with the additional challenges to any managed organization - business, government or religious. He details the rise of Wikipedia, Blogging, Twitter, Meet-up and other social media and gives examples of how they have changed our collective response to our perceived injustices - from priest sexual abuse to bad airline service. Ultimately, the book is unfinished as the final chapters will not be written for many years yet. Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Unless you've been living under a rock over the past few years, you would have noticed an explosion in ways that people interact, collaborate and exchange information online. We are probably undergoing the greatest technological shift since the advent of e-mail, and it'd probably hard to grasp all the ramifications that profound new change is heralding. Every year now, or sometimes every month, several new information terms and products enter our collective consciousness, terms like blog, Twitter, Digg, Facebook, MySpace, collaborative filtering, crowdsourcing, online social networking, and many, many others. It becomes harder and harder to keep track of what each one of them means, little less of how to use it or whether to use it at all. Many of them may just be passing fads, but it is hard to deny that put together they are part of some larger trend. However, it may not be so obvious what this trend is all about and one often can't see the forest from all the trees. From that point, Clay Shirky's book "Here Comes Everybody" can be best understood as a field guide that will take you on a guided tour of this new forest and explain its immediate implications for how we live our lives, work or play. It is a very well written book, written in an easy-going journalistic style. It brings forth many real-life stories and case analyses that help with explaining these recent trends. The book is informative without being bogged down in technical jargon. It is also a very gripping read, and once one starts reading it is hard to put down. I would recommend it to everyone who is interested in getting a big picture of where we are headed in terms of collaborative technologies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tunguz More than 1 year ago
Unless you've been living under a rock over the past few years, you would have noticed an explosion in ways that people interact, collaborate and exchange information online. We are probably undergoing the greatest technological shift since the advent of e-mail, and it'd probably hard to grasp all the ramifications that profound new change is heralding. Every year now, or sometimes every month, several new information terms and products enter our collective consciousness, terms like blog, Twitter, Digg, Facebook, MySpace, collaborative filtering, crowdsourcing, online social networking, and many, many others. It becomes harder and harder to keep track of what each one of them means, little less of how to use it or whether to use it at all. Many of them may just be passing fads, but it is hard to deny that put together they are part of some larger trend. However, it may not be so obvious what this trend is all about and one often can't see the forest from all the trees. From that point, Clay Shirky's book "Here Comes Everybody" can be best understood as a field guide that will take you on a guided tour of this new forest and explain its immediate implications for how we live our lives, work or play. It is a very well written book, written in an easy-going journalistic style. It brings forth many real-life stories and case analyses that help with explaining these recent trends. The book is informative without being bogged down in technical jargon. It is also a very gripping read, and once one starts reading it is hard to put down. I would recommend it to everyone who is interested in getting a big picture of where we are headed in terms of collaborative technologies.
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