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The Times on Smart Mobs

The New York Times has an article out on Howard Rheingold's "smart mobs" concept and book (written about earlier here), "Motivating the Masses, Wirelessly". (Link courtesy of Howard on Joi Ito's blog.)

Mr. Rheingold can recognize a revolution. He published "The Virtual Community" in 1993, long before corporate America realized that the killer app of the Internet would be the connections that the Net allows between people. He sees a similar shift with smart mobs and what he calls swarming.

"It took me eight years to find something that seemed that significant to me," Mr. Rheingold said...

Mr. Rheingold argues that the convergence of wireless communications technologies and widely distributed networks allow swarming on a scale that has never existed before. He envisions shifts along the lines of those that began to occur when people first settled into villages and formed nation-states. "We are on the verge of a major series of social changes that are closely tied into emerging technologies," he said.

Of course, lest he be accused of writing a puff piece, the reporter had to find someone to throw a bit of cold water on things:

"What he's talking about is real," said John Seely Brown, the former director of Xerox PARC. "The thing that surprises me is that he is casting this as so new."
I'd like to see Brown talk about specific examples of the type of wirelessly-enabled smart mob behavior in the real world described by Howard that are more than two or three years old. I can't think of any.

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