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Here Comes Everybody
Cover of Here Comes Everybody
Here Comes Everybody
The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
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An extraordinary exploration of how technology can empower social and political organizers
For the first time in history, the tools for cooperating on a global scale are not solely in the hands of governments or institutions. The spread of the internet and mobile phones are changing how people come together and get things done—and sparking a revolution that, as Clay Shirky shows, is changing what we do, how we do it, and even who we are. Here, we encounter a whoman who loses her phone and recruits an army of volunteers to get it back from the person who stole it. A dissatisfied airline passenger who spawns a national movement by taking her case to the web. And a handful of kids in Belarus who create a political protest that the state is powerless to stop. Here Comes Everybody is a revelatory examination of how the wildfirelike spread of new forms of social interaction enabled by technology is changing the way humans form groups and exist within them. A revolution in social organization has commenced, and Clay Shirky is its brilliant chronicler.
"Drawing from anthropology, economic theory and keen observation, [Shirky] makes a strong case that new communication tools are making once-impossible forms of group action possible . . . [an] extraordinarily perceptive new book." -Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Mr. Shirky writes cleanly and convincingly about the intersection of technological innovation and social change." -New York Observer
An extraordinary exploration of how technology can empower social and political organizers
For the first time in history, the tools for cooperating on a global scale are not solely in the hands of governments or institutions. The spread of the internet and mobile phones are changing how people come together and get things done—and sparking a revolution that, as Clay Shirky shows, is changing what we do, how we do it, and even who we are. Here, we encounter a whoman who loses her phone and recruits an army of volunteers to get it back from the person who stole it. A dissatisfied airline passenger who spawns a national movement by taking her case to the web. And a handful of kids in Belarus who create a political protest that the state is powerless to stop. Here Comes Everybody is a revelatory examination of how the wildfirelike spread of new forms of social interaction enabled by technology is changing the way humans form groups and exist within them. A revolution in social organization has commenced, and Clay Shirky is its brilliant chronicler.
"Drawing from anthropology, economic theory and keen observation, [Shirky] makes a strong case that new communication tools are making once-impossible forms of group action possible . . . [an] extraordinarily perceptive new book." -Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Mr. Shirky writes cleanly and convincingly about the intersection of technological innovation and social change." -New York Observer
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  • From the book New Leverage for Old Behaviors

    Human beings are social creatures—not occasionally or by accident but always. Sociability is one of our lives as both cause and effect. Society is not just the product of its individual members; it is also the product of its constituent groups. The aggregate relations among individuals and groups, among individuals within groups, and among groups forms a network of astonishing complexity. We have always relied on group effort for survival; even before the invention of agriculture, hunting and gathering required coordinate work and division of labor. You can see an echo of our talent for sociability in the language we have for groups; like a real-world version of the mythical seventeen Eskimo words for snow, we use incredibly rich language in describing human association. We can make refined distinctions between a corporation and a congregation, a clique and a club, a crowd and a cabal. We readily understand the difference between transitive labels like "my wife's friend's son" and "my son's friend's wife, " and this relational subtlety permeates our lives. Our social nature even shows up in a negation. One of the most severe punishments that can be meted out to a prisoner is solitary confinement; even in a social environment as harsh and attenuated as prison, complete removal from human contract is harsher still.

    Our social life is literally primal, in the sense that chimpanzees and gorillas, our closest relatives among the primates, are also social. (Indeed, among people who design software for group use, human social instincts are sometimes jokingly referred to as the monkey mind.) But humans go further than any of our primate cousins: our groups are larger, more complex, more ordered, and longer lived, and critically, they extend beyond family ties to include categories like friends, neighbors, colleagues, and sometimes even strangers. Our social abilities are also accompanied by high individual intelligence. Even cults, the high-water mark of surrender of individuality to a group, can't hold a candle to a beehive in terms of absolute social integration; this makes us different from creatures whose sociability is more enveloping than ours.

    This combination of personal smarts and social intuition makes us the undisputed champions of the animal kingdom in flexibility of collective membership. We act in concert everywhere, from simple tasks like organizing a birthday party 9itself a surprisingly complicated task) to running an organization with thousands or even millions of members. This skill allows groups to tackle tasks that are bigger, more complex, more dispersed, and of longer duration than any person could tackle alone. Building an airplane or a cathedral, performing a symphony or heart surgery, raising a barn or razing a fortress, all require the distribution, specialization, and coordination of many tasks among many individuals, sometimes unfolding over years or decades and sometimes spanning continents.

    We are so natively good at group effort that we often factor groups out of our thinking about the world. Many jobs that we regard as the province of a single mind actually require a crowd. Michelangelo had assistants paint part of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Thomas Edison, who had over a thousand patents in his name, managed a staff or two dozen. Even writing a book, a famously solitary pursuit, involves the work of editors, publishers, and designers; getting this particular book into your hands involved additional coordination among printers, warehouse managers, truck drivers, and a host of others in the network between me and you. Even if we exclude groups that are just labels for shared...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 17, 2007
    Blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 accoutrements are revolutionizing the social order, a development that's cause for more excitement than alarm, argues interactive telecommunications professor Shirky. He contextualizes the digital networking age with philosophical, sociological, economic and statistical theories and points to its major successes and failures. Grassroots activism stands among the winners—Belarus's “flash mobs,” for example, blog their way to unprecedented antiauthoritarian demonstrations. Likewise, user/contributor-managed Wikipedia raises the bar for production efficiency by throwing traditional corporate hierarchy out the window. Print journalism falters as publishing methods are transformed through the Web. Shirky is at his best deconstructing Web failures like “Wikitorial,” the Los Angeles Times
    's attempt to facilitate group op-ed writing. Readers will appreciate the Gladwellesque lucidity of his assessments on what makes or breaks group efforts online: “Every story in this book relies on the successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users.” The sum of Shirky's incisive exploration, like the Web itself, is greater than its parts.

  • Booklist

    February 15, 2008
    Posing questions about how the Internet affectsgroup organization, technology writer and consultant Shirkychallenges the perception that it heralds an egalitarian era. Leaning on human nature, such as the varying intensity of engagement within any group with a nominally common interest, Shirky demonstrates in numerous examples how a very few individuals or Web sites come to dominate the activity at hand. Shirky opens with the transformation of one lost cell phone into a cause c'l'bre after the finder wouldnt return it, ultimately resulting in her arrest. Driven by one person outraged atthe effrontery, this story has analogs in Shirkys analysis of what makes Wikipedia work or an airline heed customers complaints. Generally a committed few find similarly minded folks, who widen the circle with an implicit promise of results at low cost, perhaps redress from the airline. Exploring this dynamics impact on journalism and business, Shirky astutely discerns the implicationsof peopleacting on their own, without the need to transact their concerns through a hierarchical organization.A perceptive appraisal of the contemporary technology-society interface.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2008, American Library Association.)

  • Reviews for Here Comes Everybody and Clay Shirky:

    Clay has long been one of my favorite thinkers on all things Internet-- not only is he smart and articulate, but he's one of those people who is able to crystallize the half-formed ideas that I've been trying to piece together into glittering, brilliant insights that make me think, yes, of course, that's how it all works.

    --Cory Doctorow, co-editor of Boing Boing and author of Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present.

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Here Comes Everybody
Here Comes Everybody
The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
Clay Shirky
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