He is a showman and a character, and his early work influenced my ideas of where the Internet and the Web would take us as a society.
When I read Smart Mobs I was struck by two things. The examples he gave were predominantly from outside the United States. The author pointed this out and even went so far as to say it was it was unique to see an emerging social phenomenon driven by technology to occur first in other parts of the world. Japan and Finland were at the heart of relationships and groups organizing and conversing through text messages and cell phone social circles.
I also felt as though maybe he was stretching a bit in this book, as I was not seeing much activity he attributed to emerging technology first hand. There also didn’t seem to be many examples of what he was describing coming across the usual publications or other technology outlets at that time. So he was pointing out something and as I peered out to see it, it just wasn't taking shape for me.
Here it is six years later and this week there have been plenty of examples to support his contentions. Enough so, that it made me reflect back on the book and decide to reread it.
Here are two, with one being local to Tacoma.
At the 2008 South by Southwest Interactive Conference (SXSWi) the audience launched a revolt during a keynote interview with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook by journalist Sara Lacy of Business Week. Not liking her relaxed conversational style, the crowd mounted a blistering attack on the substance of the interview and selection of questions via microblogging tool Twitter.
Instead of the story being about Facebook, it became about the journalist and the mob that went after her in their own fashion. (There were some traditional hecklers as well).
Rohit Bhargava of WebProNews describes Twitter as follows:
It is a tool that allows you to broadcast your answer to the simple question, "what are you doing?," through writing a short 140 character text message. That message is posted online where a group of individuals that are "following" you can see it. Following someone is the equivalent in Twitter language of becoming their friend of Facebook. Popular Twitterers have several thousand followers. Through this steady stream of updates, at an event like SXSW, you can watch the live pulse of the event and what people think about it real time.
Since then there has been endless analysis of the activity during the interview and not the content of the interview, with backlash toward the intellectually angry mob as well.
Locally, though not on the instant messaging side, but certainly driven in great part by online technology, the blogging community (and other community minded folks) started up on a “Take Back The ….” mission, with Frost Park at 9th and Commerce being the first location targeted for being taken back. Armed with pink cookies, kindred spirits and well oiled calendar planning through their comments section, approximately 30 or so folks claimed the concrete wall bordered park, at least during the lunch hour. They even planted a flag.
Given it is just getting to Spring, I hope the “Take Back The…” mission spreads and grows until everything has in fact been taken back.
Not necessarily a Flash Mob, but an excellent example of social organization through like minded individuals through blogs. Was anyone texting during that meet up?
Erik B of the Tacoma Urbanist has a recap with pictures and commentary from those in attendance.