Monday, September 21, 2009

Here Comes Everybody

When I began reading “Here Comes Everybody” by Clay Shirky, I thought that the theme of the book would be convergence, or how multiple technologies work together and/or in sync with one another to maximize the coverage or exploitation of a resource, like ABC covering a news story through radio, television and the internet. I quickly realized that this preconceived notion of this book was incorrect. Rather than focusing on “convergence,” the theme was more about “proliferation.”

As I began to think about the two terms, I understood how my line of thinking was flawed. From a corporate standpoint, convergence may be a core principle that they use in order to reach diverse audiences. As the habits of those audiences evolve with increased technological functionality, their need to integrate the usage of such technologies into their portfolio grows. The constant development of new ways to reach these audiences becomes necessary for the survival of their business.

What Shirky illustrates is the way these same evolving habits formed from new technologies empowers each individual user to become the purveyor of information. No longer do we have to wait for Brian Williams to report the nightly news when an average citizen in Thailand can Tweet real-time accounts of government activities or natural disasters. The old ways of collectivizing are now challenged with the possibility (and reality) of flash mobs and Meetup Groups. Group-forming can be done quickly, effectively, and still dissolve just as fast.

According to Shirky, we’ve adapted a formula of “publish, and then filter,” radically different from traditional models of communication. This new structure results from the immediacy of available information and the abundance of voices that compete for our attention. Time taken to properly edit information is time away from reaching the audience. Put the information out first, and then correct it as you go along. ,especially now, when we’re in a stock-market like global environment where information becomes short-lived and outdated as quickly as the Dow Jones Average jumps up and down.

A business model that adapts to these new times is the open-source formula utilized by Linux, which allows anybody to contribute to the success of a program. Linux is self-policed by a loosely-formed and tightly-knit body of computer programmers who seek to solve any number of complex problems. Everybody has the potential to resolve an issue or add input, becoming as important as anybody else within the group. The proliferation of contributors, similar to Wikipedia, is why Shirky calls his book “Here Comes Everybody.”

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