Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution: Transforming Cultures and Communities in the Age of Instant Access

Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution: Transforming Cultures and Communities in the Age of Instant Access

by Howard Rheingold

From Tokyo to Helsinki, Manhattan to Manila, Howard Rheingold takes us on a journey around the world for a preview of the next techno-cultural shift-a shift he predicts will be as dramatic as the widespread adoption of the PC in the 1980s and the Internet in the 1990s. The coming wave, says Rheingold, is the result of super-efficient mobile communications-cellular


From Tokyo to Helsinki, Manhattan to Manila, Howard Rheingold takes us on a journey around the world for a preview of the next techno-cultural shift-a shift he predicts will be as dramatic as the widespread adoption of the PC in the 1980s and the Internet in the 1990s. The coming wave, says Rheingold, is the result of super-efficient mobile communications-cellular phones, personal digital assistants, and wireless-paging and Internet-access devices that will allow us to connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime.From the amusing ("Lovegetty" devices in Japan that light up when a person with the right date-potential characteristics appears in the vicinity) to the extraordinary (the overthrow of a repressive regime in the Philippines by political activists who mobilized by forwarding text messages via cell phones), Rheingold gives examples of the fundamentally new ways in which people are already engaging in group or collective action. He also considers the dark side of this phenomenon, such as the coordination of terrorist cells, threats to privacy, and the ability to incite violent behavior.Applying insights from sociology, artificial intelligence, engineering, and anthropology, Rheingold offers a penetrating perspective on the brave new convergence of pop culture, cutting-edge technology, and social activism. At the same time, he reminds us that, as with other technological revolutions, the real impact of mobile communications will come not from the technology itself but from how people use it, resist it, adapt to it, and ultimately use it to transform themselves, their communities, and their institutions.

Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe
Lively and illuminating. If you're interested in Internet culture or want to see where mobile phone technology is heading, you'll appreciate Rheingold's dogged pursuit of the cutting edge.
Wide-ranging and fascinating...[Smart Mobs] does a good job exploring the competitive dynamics that could affect public adoption of wireless networks.
Fast Company
Offers a vivid mural of [a] strange new frontier...A fascinating romp through the far edge of what's next.
New Scientist
Explor[es] intriguing new questions...An invitation to... imagine what's next.
New York Times
Mr. Rheingold can recognize a revolution.
Publishers Weekly
The title of this book is a mild pun. People are using smart "mobs" (rhymes with "robes") to become smart "mobs" (rhymes with "robs"), meaning, sophisticated mobile Internet access is allowing people who don't know each other to act in concert. In this timely if at times overenthusiastic survey of wireless communication devices, Rheingold (The Virtual Community) conveys how cell phones, pagers and PDAs are shaping modern culture. He interviewed dozens of people around the world who work and play with these technologies to see how this revolution is manifesting, and his findings are stirring. The concept has caught on among young Japanese, where cliques of teenagers hang out together all day, despite being in different places, by sending and receiving hundreds of iconic text transmissions on their iMode telephones. And demonstrators in Seattle and Manila relied on wireless telephones to coordinate their actions and evade barricades. In major cities, Rheingold says, techno-hipsters can congregate in "WiFi" areas that interact with their wireless devices to let them participate in a virtual social scene. In one amusing example, he tells of upscale prostitutes who can enter their services and prices into their mobile phones, allowing customers to discreetly determine if anyone nearby is selling what they want to buy (a Japanese company, Lovegety, has already adapted this idea to dating). This study of the potential of mobile, always on, fast Internet access nicely serves as a travelogue to the future, showing the possibilities and dangers of communications innovation. Agents, John Brockman and Katinka Matson. (Nov.) Forecast: This is by far the best recent book on this topic, both in terms of writing quality and information, and enthusiasts will love it. Early press in the New York Times and the Washington Post will help raise awareness, as will upcoming reviews and interviews in Fast Company, Business 2.0 and NPR's Tech Nation. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Rheingold coined the term smart mobs to describe groups of people able to act in concert by using mobile media and wireless computer networks to organize collective actions, even without knowing one another. People in smart mobs collaborate in ways never before possible because they each carry super-efficient mobile devices that have both communication and computing capabilities. They can thus act together in new ways and in situations where collective action was not possible before. Rheingold provides examples of how smart mobs already are engaging in such collective action. From harmless matchmaking in Japan, to overthrowing the Philippine government, to the events of September 11, he presents convincing arguments that the long-term effects of mobile telecommunications will precipitate the next social tsunami. The dark side of this phenomenon includes the ability to coordinate terrorist cells, threats to privacy, and the capability to incite violent mob behavior. To Rheingold, this third wave in telecommunications will permanently change our social structure and advance communications in more dramatic ways than the PC and Internet revolutions we have seen. Essential reading for an informed audience.-Joe J. Accardi, Harper Coll. Lib., Palatine, IL Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
The Pervasive Effects And Future of Mobile Technology
Smart mobs are interconnected groups of people who are using technological advances in new and important ways, and Howard Rheingold has made it his business to get to the heart of any new technological phenomenon and find out what makes it tick. When he discovered "texting" (the exchanging of short messages via mobile telephones) on a Tokyo street corner in 2000, he had an epiphany that has led him to explore the changes in technology that are occurring right now and their implications for the next 10 years.

In Smart Mobs, Rheingold digs into the profound changes that are taking place in the world and the ways radio chips, wireless Internet applications, text messaging, and other advances in computer technology are moving people in unexpected directions.

'An Eruption of Subcultures'
When discussing texting, Rheingold says that it has not only led to "an eruption of subcultures in Europe and Asia," but the use of text messaging has even been a part of leading to the overthrow of at least one government.

Every technological phenomenon that has cropped up in the last few years is reexamined in the light of the new uses that users have found for them, and along the way Rheingold pours on the language of the übergeeks and defines dozens of new terms that will find their ways into our common culture over the next few years. By the time the reader puts down Smart Mobs, he or she will understand what a peer-to-peer ad-hocracy is as well as how an interpersonal awareness device works.

Peer-to-Peer Networks
The applications of peer-to-peer (p2p) networks that Rheingold discusses go far beyond the Napster model that was recently shut down after trouble with the recording industry, and venture into searching for extraterrestrial communications and cures for deadly diseases.

Other advances that are hashed out throughout Smart Mobs are smart rooms, environments that sense inhabitants and respond to them; sentient objects, physical objects with information and communication capabilities; wearable computers that sense, compute and communicate while working as clothing; and even digital cities with vast information capabilities. Each of these advancements rely on the radio, infrared and other invisible signaling technologies that enable chips to transfer information to other people and to devices that are as close as the same room or on the other side of the planet.

Rheingold also explores the next step in the evolution of reputation and the future of online credit verification services that are on their way to becoming "finely nuanced reputation repositories capable of forecasting your taste in music, vouching for the trustworthiness of your computer code, attesting to your ability to evaluate wines, as well as verifying your credit record." This convergence of technology and cooperation is already seen on eBay, where a reputation system facilitates billions of dollars worth of transactions between people who don't know each other; and Amazon, where an online recommendation system tells customers about books and records bought by people whose tastes are similar to their own.

The Downside of Technology
Along with the upside of these types of technology, Rheingold also explores their negative sides. These include intrusions on individual privacy and liberty by the state and its political enemies, as well as the use of smart mob tactics by terrorists and organized criminals.

As online cooperation increases, so does the technological infrastructure that increases surveillance on citizens. Issues like these are pursued along with the profound effects of communication devices on our work, family and societal life, and the quality and meaning of life issues that accompany their pervasiveness.

Rheingold explores the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and dangers of mobile and pervasive technologies while addressing the social challenges posed by them. Along the way, he examines the nature of public spaces and other aspects of physical geography that are changing as a result of the emergence of these social networks in cyberspace.

Why Soundview Likes This Book
Smart Mobs offers a fascinating look at the ways people communicate in the 21st century, and provides an exciting vision of the future that is developing from the technological advancements of today and tomorrow. His numerous timely examples of companies, people and connections that are affected by the mobile technology that is emerging at an incredible rate, and the changes that are born from its advancement, all form a compelling view of a subject with giant ramifications for the world in which we live. His observant insights are a welcome inroad to the forces that are shaping our own future and that of our grandchildren. Copyright (c) 2003 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Product Details

Basic Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.33(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.07(d)

What People are saying about this

Kevin Kelly
Anywhere Rheingold goes, I'll be there behind him. (Kevin Kelly, author of New Rules for the New Economy)

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