This News One headline greeted me on Sept. 17., as I scrolled through my Facebook time line.
Curious about the latest nonsense spewing from an out-touch celebrity’s mouth; I clicked the link to read the whole
The story read as follows:
“Jaden Smith…the son of actors Will and Jada, reportedly attacked the U.S. educational system in a Twitter rant relayed to his nearly 4.6 million followers about how society would be better off “if everybody in the world
dropped out of school.” Now concerned parents are in an uproar because the pint-sized actor and his “too cool for school ‘tude” is reportedly influencing his school-aged followers, according to US Magazine” (NewsOne,2013).
Smith also tweeted, “School Is The Tool To Brainwash The Youth” [sic].
Annoyed by Smith’s comments, I voiced my opinion in the way most of my generation does these days—via social media.
I shared the news link on my Facebook wall with the comment “I support freedom of speech, but some people, in this instance Jaden Smith, should exercise their rights far less often than others.”
My post received a couple of likes and one inbox message from a Facebook friend who seemed open to Smith’s point-of-view.
He wrote, “If you knew what he knows...you might think differently. Or you might change your curriculum.”
Although not intentional, my original post created an open dialogue.
I was not relegated to only discussing the issue with people I could talk to in person or via telephone.
Yet, it did not take fliers posted around town promoting a community forum to discuss the issue either.
All it took was a post on social media.
This scenario partly exemplifies this week’s topic for #mc7019—social networks.
This week we read Clay Shirky’s book “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations.”
By telling the stories of a couple of individuals, Shirky proves “for the first time in human history, our communications tools support the group conversation and group action” (Shirky, 2008).
“Gathering a group of people and getting them to act used to require significant resources, giving the world’s institutions a kind of monopoly on group effort. Now, though, the tools for sharing and cooperating on a global scale have been placed in the hands of individual citizens” (Shirky, 2008).
Going back to my personal Facebook example, it is easier than ever to start the group conversation, and if necessary commence group action.
The story of the stolen sidekick was particularly interesting, proving the following points:
There is “new leverage for old behaviors” (Shirky, 2008).
“When we change the way we communicate, we change society” (Shirky, 2008).
“Forming groups has gotten a lot easier” (Shirky, 2008).
In 2013, Shirky’s arguments are even stronger.
People can sign petitions, create groups on Facebook, start a blog on Facebook or even tweet to a specific hash tag on Twitter.
Interested persons can even put their money where the mouth is in the name of justice and change through websites like Kick Starter and others.
New technologies have “collapsed” the costs of forming groups for collective action (Shirky, 2008).
As Shirky discusses, these changes in the way people can organize help fight the dire conclusions drawn by Robert Putnam in his book ““Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.”
The main idea of Robert Putnam’s book “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” is “we Americans need to reconnect with one another” (p. 28). He supports this argument with the social capital theory, which asserts social networks do have value (p. 19). Social capital refers to “social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them” (p. 19).
In other words, Putnam may be right in saying people no longer support causes and other people through costly memberships to clubs or associations, by attending weekly meetings, or even by casting their vote at the polls.
They are, however, signing online petitions and creating online grassroots campaigns.
In many cases, these online conversations translate to real-life meet ups.
Tweet up and sites like MeetUp allow people who share similar interests to meet up in person, bridging the gap between online and offline organizing.
This new way of organizing has pros and cons.
While the relatively low costs, ability to reach large audiences and simplicity of starting a conversation all weigh
in as pros, future costs, unverified sources and disorganization all prove problematic.
Social media and website creators have gotten hip to this growing online movement. Everyone is trying to make a
Facebook now charges to promote posts and to contact people with whom you share no mutual friends and the costs of website hosting and domain name registries are steadily growing, creating a barrier to entry for some.
Also the skyrocketing cost of equipment such as smart phones, tablets and laptops that make engaging in online organizing easier, also remain barriers to entry for some.
Furthermore, the lack of oversight in some cases can lead to a free for all of hate speech and wrong information.
Additionally, the question of “Who is a journalist?” arises here.
Traditional media is complementary to more traditional means of organizing.
Clubs could inform members of upcoming meetings through the local media’s community sections.
Also if an issue arose, people could organize about the issue based on facts from the news story.
In this world of bloggers with no credentials or training, people may be prompted to act based on incorrect information, wasting time and possibly invalidating their mission.
While there are these bad instances, there are times when everyone’s ability to activate a
newsroom from their hip proves to be a great benefit.
People can organize by tweeting from the gas station or posting a picture to Instagram while attending a college football game.
This is how people organize without organizations in 2013.
I think Shirky’s book was well-thought out and his ideas well-developed. Because the book
was written in 2008, though, I am left with these questions:
1. Do you think online organization will grow to completely erase more traditional ways of organizing?
2. What can we do to ensure online organization remains a viable way or organizing?
Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of
American community. New York: Simon &
Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing
without organizations. New York: Penguin
The picture below is of my dog Sadie. She is a little over 1-year-old. I uploaded a picture of her to Instagram and included hashtagging to fall in line with other pictures of cute dogs. Enjoy!