From the horse's mouth.
Howard Rheingold, who tends to keep ahead of the crowd, and identifies trends
well before they become mainstream, published Smart Mobs in 2002. The mobs in
the title wasn't (only) referring to one of the less desirable aspects of crowd
behavior, but instead to the almost instantaneous gatherings (and dispersions)
of people made possible by mobile phones. The book (freely
available online) is filled with examples, though some seem less convincing
than others. Rheingold always seeks the big picture:
Smart mobs emerge when communication and computing technologies amplify human
talents for cooperation. The impacts of smart mob technology already appear to
be both beneficial and destructive, used by some of its earliest adopters to support
democracy and by others to coordinate terrorist attacks. The technologies that
are beginning to make smart mobs possible are mobile communication devices and
pervasive computing - inexpensive microprocessors embedded in everyday objects
and environments. Already, governments have fallen, youth subcultures have blossomed
from Asia to Scandinavia, new industries have been born and older industries have
launched furious counterattacks.
Are these mobs really generating social change in
the manner that Rheingold suggests? It's nice to think that they do, in a "history
from below meets 21st century technology" manner. Too many of Rheingold's
examples, however, seem steeped in a "we are the people" ethos, pitting
the little-guy underdog against the big corporation bad guy. At
least a couple of bloggers ask if there isn't another side to that coin.
As it to perhaps be expected, Rheingold tells
us that there's a battle raging for control over the technologies that make smart
mobs possible (and that the little guy may be losing).
Go to: Are crowds really that smart?