Book recommendation: Here comes everybody

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review by Jeff Beckham (2008)

Humans are social animals. And in “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations”, Clay Shirky shows how the widespread adoption of the internet has allowed us to become more social than ever.

And though the focus is on the online tools we use to find, meet, and talk with each other, you don’t need to know your Twitter from your Meetup to appreciate the insights that appear on nearly every page. Shirky’s clear writing brings newbies up to speed easily and shines new light on established tech topics. Those of us who grew up before the rise of the internet will easily recognize the barriers to sharing information (how can I let other people see this newspaper article?) and getting groups together (how can I find people who like to do what I do?) that have existed for as long as we can remember. But one by one, Shirky shows how those barriers have fallen, and how it’s easier now than ever to publish, organize, meet and take action.

One such example is taken from Austin, where in 2006, planes full of American Airlines passengers were left sitting on the runway for hours because of bad weather. One of those passengers, a real estate agent from California named Kate Hanni, used her comments on the Austin American-Statesman website to begin organizing her fellow passengers into a group that proposed an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights. Her simple comment — “Anyone from this flight please contact me” — was the spark to a movement that ended with lobbying Congress and with airlines feeling the pressure to adopt their own Passenger Bills of Rights. Prior to email and websites and online comments on news stories, those disgruntled passengers would only have shared a story and a warning for travellers. With those tools, they had a way to create awareness on a great scale and the possibility for new actions. “Here Comes Everybody” is filled with these type of examples, from strangers banding together to find a lost phone to the users of Digg taking collection action over the publishing of DVD unlock codes. Each story illustrates the social and technological factors at work today, and how the future of our groups will be impacted.

Subject: Social contacts via the Internet
Author: Clay Shirky
Published by: Penguin Books Ltd, London
Original review: by Jeff Beckham, 2008

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