Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Smart Mobs - Howard Rheingold

Smart Mobs - Howard Rheingold
[...] many-to-many media confer a power on consumers that mass media never did: the power to create, publish, broadcast, and debate their own point of view. (197)
Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs looks at how networked communications technologies are changing the way we live. Rheingold is focused on the transformative possibilities - increased participation in civic discourse and the creation of collaboratively created shared resources - but tempered with some skepticism about the implications.

He does not focus exclusively on the Internet but rather incorporates several related emerging technologies. He starts out with "Technologies of Cooperation," looking at origins of human cooperation. In subsequent chapters he discusses wireless internet, mobile technologies, pervasive computing (embedding processors in everyday things) and how trust and reputation are managed on online platforms such as eBay and Slashdot.

How have these technologies altered the way we live? One example is the way that cellphone voice communication and texting have changed our ideas of time and punctuality ("Is anything happening there yet?") ("Call me when you get here").

The style is accessible, if a bit breathless, with Rheingold framing his research as a personal journey. He's at Shibuya crossing in Tokyo watching crowds of people texting while crossing the street, then at a meeting with a developer in a high-rise, then hanging out in Helsinki... Smart Mobs was published in 2000 and the tone in some parts of the book is a tad dated already -texting and wireless Internet don't seem as amazing in 2008 as they did when he was writing - but the insights are still relevant. Despite a tendency toward techno-uptopianism, this is the best, most readable introduction to these topics that I've come across.

PDF article by Rheingold on cooperation and technology

No comments: