From the evolution of the printing press, the phone, the film, and now the Web, Clay Shirky points out the we are evolving in much the way the book Groundswell says. We are going form one way communication, to two way communications to what he calls “many to many communication.”

Many to many communication is just what it sounds like. Groups and masses of people are now sharing information with other masses of people. The users of the web are now the producers of the web content. The Web becomes the administrator of the different groups. It can also keep the research organized by having the different information sources readily available concurrently.

Two examples of this evolution that Shirky cited were great moments in history. One was China having an earthquake. China is a heavily censored country which relies on the government to show and censor what its people see. The last earthquake took them many months to acknowledge. This past earthquake was different. Many people posted to social media the conditions of the people during the disaster as well as the government’s efforts to cover up structural weaknesses which came out during the damage assessment.

China could not censor the past earthquake, Shirky says, as the social media was global, social, ubiquitous, and abundant. In short, like in the Groundswell accounts, there are just too many people in the web posting instant content in real time for any central government to control. China had to let some of the news be sent out before it tried to shut down the social media sites. By the time it did both the local people and the world knew of the conditions the Chinese people faced. Local pressure was out on officials to find out who allowed such shoddy infrastructure and the world got international aid to the people. This would not have happened in the old censored government controlled media model.

The other example is a shining one of web transparency. The Obama website voted in a free trade agreement called FICA different then the party was calling for. People began to post on the site that Obama should look at his vote more carefully. As more and more people voted about this vote, Obama felt the need to answer the groundswell of postings with his position and the facts of why he voted the way he did. He also left all of the positive and negative postings about the FISA trade agreement on his site. This is true web democracy in action, and may be the Web’s finest political hour. Keeping the facts in the hands and fingers of the people in real time, the Web has evolved to even be a sort of political watchdog.

Shirky attributes the Web evolutionary persons to be a few attributes in general. They are local in geography, post quickly, are amateurs by way that they can post freely, and are abundant in number. It is in these terms that the group versus group movement is thriving. Ty Ray

Advertisements