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Smart Mobs

Howard Rheingold has announced his forthcoming book, Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, to be published later this year. From a preview of the book by John Brockman:

In 1999 and 2000, Howard Rheingold started noticing people using mobile media in novel ways. In Tokyo, he accompanied flocks of teenagers as they converged on public places, coordinated by text messages. In Helsinki, he joined like-minded Finns who share the same downtown physical clubhouse, virtual community, and mobile-messaging media. He learned that the demonstrators in the 1999 anti-WTO protests used dynamically updated websites, cell-phones, and "swarming" tactics in the "battle of Seattle," and that a million Filipino citizens toppled President Estrada in 2000 through public demonstrations organized by salvos of text messages. Drivers in the UK used mobile communications to spontaneously self organize demonstrations against rising petrol prices. He began to see how these events were connected. He calls these new uses of mobile media "smart mobs."
In his own description of the book, Howard concludes with this wonderfully optimistic paragraph:
Mobile communications and pervasive computing have the potential for magnifying cooperation far more powerfully than previous technologies; coupled with new knowledge about the social dynamics of collective action, smart mob technologies could make possible improvements in the way billions of people live.
Howard is onto something... well, beyond big. He's onto something huge.

I'm thinking much about what all this means and where it's going. I'm convinced there's a Grand Unified Theory of Collaboration, and from what I've seen of Howard's book, I think he may have just accomplished the equivalent of a few years of accelerator runs at CERN. I'm sure I'm not the only person who will be poring over his particle traces as soon as they're available, looking for hints of the underlying principles.

For more on this, check out the entry and discussion in Joi Ito's blog. You can also find Howard's page on the book here.

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