I was told by the Chief Executive of Patient Opinion at #mps09 (the conference myPublicServices – blog post can be found here) that this book would change my world, and in a way I guess it did.
Having only recently joined the Technology, Research and Transformation Team, I thought I didn’t know too much about technology, however this book completely changed my opinion. Technology doesn’t have to be all ‘high tech’ and ‘new fangled’ to change the way people live their everyday lives at home, on holiday, at work, etc,.The important point is how this technology is used. Shirky gives the example of the founding of VOTF (Voice of Faith) a small group of 30 members who wanted to act upon a scandal and after two months the group had over 25,000 members. The group merely used ‘the internet model’ to spread their message and as Shirky states ‘what technology did do was alter the spread, force and especially duration of the reaction’.
As we saw in late 2009, the same occurred when Daily Mail writer Jan Moir wrote an article about the late Stephen Gately from Boyzone. Readers were outraged by her claims that his death was linked to his sexuality. Celebrity twitterers Derren Brown and Stephen Fry urged their followers to complain and Jan Moir became a ‘trendy topic’ indicating the frequency with which it was mentioned on Twitter. Other members of Twitter sent messages to the BT, O2 and Marks and Spencer Twitter pages asking if the companies intended to remove their advertising from the webpage showcasing Moir's offending article. The Twitter uproar appeared on Friday afternoon to have been successful, with all adverts removed from the article after half past three.
Being a fellow Social Scientist, the chapter that really caught my interest was ‘solving social dilemmas’ which is as follows:
Two suspects are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated both prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal. If one testifies (defects from the other) for the prosecution against the other and the other remains silent (cooperates with the other), the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both remain silent, both prisoners are sentenced to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a five-year sentence. Each prisoner must choose to betray the other or to remain silent. Each one is assured that the other would not know about the betrayal before the end of the investigation. How should the prisoners act?
Skirky argues that we face many of these situations in life. Dilemmas where there will be risks, where we have to trust other people who we may not even know, which may not ever be completely solved. Despite these worries, human beings are social creatures. Social psychological studies have shown time and time again that we NEED social interaction. Even the famous Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs does not forget social interaction. Shirky argues that this makes social situations like the prison dilemma unavoidable but social tools can be used to aid this interaction. "The internet augments real-world social life rather than providing an alternative to it. Instead of becoming a separate cyberspace, our electronic networking are becoming deeply embedded in real life." I think this story I read today on a fellow Twitterer’s blog highlights Shirky’s point:
What I really like about this book is the way Shirky starts with a case study and works his point around it. Too many authors feel that the best way to put their opinions across is just to say it, but having an example to build on not only captures the reader’s attention, but it makes the point more realistic. However, I did feel that this wasn’t a book that you could dip in and out of as you pleased. Shirky has a tendency to skip from one idea to another when talking about a topic of interest so to stay fully aware of the journey he intended to take you on, you do have to read the whole chapter fully. No good for anyone who has a busy schedule and just wishes to read bits and pieces on a train journey!
Overall, I believe that anyone could read this, whether you are a technophobe or have your blackberry glued to your hand. Technology really has and continues to affect everybody, whether we choose to accept it or not, or even notice it for that matter. So, if you have the time, go and have a read about flashmobs, the Mermaid Parade and how the internet has transformed the world to name just a few. It really opened my eyes and I’m sure it will do the same for you.
'Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organising without Organisations' by Clark Shirky.
Publisher: Penguin Press
- Kirsty Russell
Picture: Clay Shirky talking at a conference with the cover of the book 'Here Comes Everybody' projected onto a screen behind him, with thanks to wayneKLin for publishing on Flickr under a Creative Commons license some rights reserved.
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