Great opening quote
"As more people adopt simple social tools, and as those tools allow increasingly rapid communication, the speed of group action also increases, and just as more is different, faster is different" p 161.
And different was the Barak Obama Presidential Election campaign - communications & coordination key planks according to Colin Delaney
"The more ubiquitous and familiar a communications method is, the more real-time coordination can come to replace planning, and the less predictable group reactions become." p 175
To illustrate his point, Shirky draws on "Flash Mobs" where there is more focus on coordination of participants than on layers of detailed planning.And he cites a few other cases, both political & military, where coordination was crucial.
The military example was the Panzer blitzkrieg across France in late 1940, where Shirky notes that the French tanks were superior, but they were not used in the innovative strategic fashion of their opponents. Nor did they have the radios in the tanks which allowed their opponents to share information, to make quick decisions on the run. Interesting ... especially as the innovative use of technologies and, in particular, communications was a key learning outcome from the earlier WWI.
"Contrary to its image as an overwhelming ....force, blitzkrieg was in fact a strategy for using a smaller but more nimble force against a well provisioned opponent .... the flash mob is a relatively new addition to the repertoire, the ability of weak groups to coordinate their actions against strong ones is the hallmark of much political action."p 173-174
The consequences of these differences in strategy & coordinating technology in 1940 were to have widespread impacts on the French people for the remaining WWII years.
Other examples cited were how customers can usual social media tools to respond poor treatment by banks & airlines.
"Many people care a little about the treatment they get from banks, but not many care enough about it to do anything on their own, both because that kind of effort is hard and because individual actions have so little effect on big corporations. ... The people who were on fire wondered why the general population didn't care more and the general population wondered why those obsessed people didn't just shut up." p 181-182
Now with social media tools, Shirky argues "the highly motivated people can create a context more easily in which the barely motivated people can be effective without having to become active themselves." p 182
In the late 1980s' a small social movement, Schweik Action, emerged, well before the emergence of social media tools. They saw maintaining coordinated communications, particularly phones & later ICT, as a key requirement during times of political unrest. Interestingly social media have proved invaluable in various humanitarian disasters since the 2004 Tsunami.
The context has now been created. And now we see social media tools being used as part of suite in early warning systems eg for severe weather, bushfires, flooding, tsunamis.
The development of Blogger by Evan Williams' company Pyra is mentioned as an aside to their development of the micro-blogging tool, Twitter, pimped up 21st Century version of the 1980's BBS Bulletin Boards. Shirky briefly describes the use of Twitter by Egyptian activists in 2004 - well before their use by Moldovian activists and later the Iranian Green Revolution activists in June 2009
Forward to Chapter 8 / Chapter 9 / Chapter 10 / Chapter 11 / Epilogue