Gina’s Blog

Times Change

Smart Mobs was very informative, but I was quite relieved transitioning to Wikinomics, which is far easier for a novice, like me, to follow. 

The second portion (chapter 7 through the end) of Smart Mobs discusses wireless access, more texting, surveillance, and what technological advances are doing to our society.  All of which are very important when trying to understand the driving force behind smart mobs and how they operate. 

Wireless access has been a huge leap for mankind.  Enabling people in remote areas to have just as much access to the web as people in the inner city is remarkable.  Initially, it was not considered cost effective to give people in these areas web access due to the price tag associated with running lines to these areas.  Now these areas are not only equipped, but the system has also helped secure faster Internet access for people within the outlying areas.  Coffeehouses usually facilitate wireless access, but public places like parks are also hopping on the bandwagon, which encourages people to visit these locations more often, even if it is only to access the Web.  This concept could definitely help build social capital especially if it is paired into devices that help match compatible partners and friends.  This of course leaves room to discuss the security of these tools, but I suppose they exist because it is the adult’s choice whether to use the device.  All of this ties back into last week’s post which discussed tools for the common good. Overall, they are all tools that help make our society a more functional and fulfilling place to live. 

Throughout the Smart Mobs, Rheingold frequently mentions texting explaining how this is yet another tool created to better our society.  In this second portion, he spend a little more time on the stronger, more aggressive side of texting—netwars.  Overall, a netwar is a campaign to organize a movement through electronic devices.  The Philippines is known for one of the most effective campaigns, which led to the collapse of the government under President Estrada.  Netwars are an example of the power that technology can embody which used effectively. 

Surveillance is a tool that also holds a lot of power.  Its biggest drawback is determining who will be able to gain access to that power.  Just the threat of surveillance has proven to be an effective means of gaining social control.  I hope that as surveillance increases we will see a decline in crime rates; however, as Sara mentioned in our class discussion this week, this may just encourage criminals to get smarter.  I suppose if the possible Do-Not-Track list  is established it would be that much easier for criminals to pass along trade secrets to avoid being caught by surveillance and other new technological advances.  It appears that everyone is collaborating nowdays.

Smart Mobs generally discusses open-source collaborations, giving praise that many users are better than one great user (possibly sending a hint to Bill Gates), but Wikinomics provides an in-depth look at the “wiki” world.  “Wiki” meaning “quick” in Hawaiian, refers to that way people are becoming more interactive with online content.  Technology falling under this umbrella includes:  social networking sites, open-source operating systems, sites allowing users to post pictures and videos, blogs, of course, Wikipedia, and  any other site that allows users to interact with the site’s content.  This new onset of contributing and collaborating is helping companies to save money and develop products faster and helping individuals to voice their opinion and communicate with society in ways that were impossible not very long ago.  (Sometimes it is hard to remember a world before we could add our two cents.)  Tapscott and Williams call people born between 1977 and1996 the Net Generation, and credit them as the group that will restructure the business world.   

The days of keeping business ideas internal are gone.  It is now about sharing your information to encourage growth.  The concept is still confusing for some, since it seems crazy to advertise ideas to the public that could earn companies a substantial amount of money, but there is a formula for doing it right.  An example of one company with the know-how is IBM.  They managed to use Linux to their advantage—saving almost one billion dollars a year by outsourcing rather than creating their own operating system in-house.  (It’s not all about giving out secrets.)  If you are looking for talent to work on a project, I am sure there are contracts that can be established to ensure intellectual property rights are protected.  I am surprised that this hasn’t been mentioned much in Wikinomics so far.  A few very popular products have come from out sourcing including:  Olay Regenerist, the Swifter Duster, and the Crest Spinbrush.

Collaborating and contributing are not just for business use.  Everyone is able to participate, and judging by the rapidly increasing numbers of bloggers, members of social networking sites, personal media (videos and pictures), and Wikipedia users, a lot of people are taking advantage of this opportunity.  It is true that with so many contributors, the Net is being flooded with content that many would perceive as unnecessary, but the Web must adhere to our Constitutional right to freedom of speech.  As acceptable as it may be to publish information that only you may care about or agree with, it is still important that users only post accurate information on site viewable by the public.  I am not sure how other sites monitor posted content, but Tapscott and Williams explain there are instances when inaccurate information is posted on Wikipedia, but the content is usually corrected within minutes by its loyal users and moderators.  Because anyone can edit a page, many are unwilling to trust information posted on the site when it means writing papers or winning a bet, but most of my friends admit to using the page to verify questions they posed to themselves. 

Smart Mobs provides the best closing thought for this week—how is technology affecting us?  Rheingold examines this question by what it is doing to our liberty, quality of life, and humanity.  Surveillance technology is trampling on the liberties that we once took for granted.  Now when you’re walking and you hope no one saw you trip, you can pretty much assume that someone did!  Those vacations you once had when no one expected to be able to reach you are officially a thing of the past.  Just because you’re on vacation no longer means that you can’t respond to work e-mails.  Our loss of humanity is described well by Putnam’s Bowling Alone.  Our society has lost the social capital the existed before television and other technological advances.  As much as we’re evolving, we all have to ask ourselves if we’re really becoming a better society because of it.


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