Notes on Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, Chs. 5, 6, and 7


The Power of Organizing without Organizations
Clay Shirky
London: Penguin, 2008

The notes below are direct transcriptions, except for what appears in square brackets.

  • Never have so many people been so free to say and do so many things with so many other people. The freedom driving mass amateurization removes the technological obstacles to participation. (122-123)
  • Given that everyone now has the tools to contribute equally, you might expect a huge increase in equality of participation. You’d be wrong. (123)
  • imbalance drives large social systems rather than damaging them (125)
  • most large social experiments are engines for harvesting inequality rather than limiting it (125)
  • When people care enough, they can come together and accomplish things of a scope and longevity that were previously impossible; they can do big things for love (142)

  • Collective action [with new tools]….challenges existing institutions, by eroding the institutional monopoly on large-scale coordination (143)
  • What we are witnessing today is a difference in the degree of sharing so large it becomes a difference in kind (149)
  • What technology did was to alter the spread, force, and especially duration of that reaction, by removing two old obstacles—locality of information, and barriers to group reaction (153)
  • social tools don’t create collective action—they merely remove the obstacles to it (159)
  • [notes on virality, using a disease analogy:] The classic model for the spread of disease looks at three variables—likelihood of infection, likelihood of contact between any two people, and overall size of population. If any of those variables increases, the overall spread of the disease increases as well (159)
  • Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies—it happens when society adopts new behaviors (160)

  • As more people adopt simple social tools, and as those tools allow increasingly rapid communication, the speed of group action also increases, and just as more is different, faster is different (161)
  • Collective action is different from individual action, both harder to get going and, once going, harder to stop (161)
  • Shared awareness [when everybody knows that everybody knows that everybody knows] allows otherwise uncoordinated groups to begin to work together more quickly and effectively (163)
  • Now [the reverse of protests in pre-Web years] the organization of group effort can be invisible, but the results can be immediately visible [to all] (168)
  • Because the mobs were proposed via weblog, the state had no way of keeping track of who had seen the plan….it had no way of knowing which of them were planning to attend….with flash mobs the government can’t intercept the group members in advance, because there is no group in advance (169)
  • To speak online is to publish, and to publish online is to connect with others. With the arrival of globally accessible publishing, freedom of speech is now freedom of the press, and freedom of the press is freedom of assembly (171)
  • Now the highly motivated people can create a context more easily in which the barely motivated people can be effective without having to become activists themselves (182) [Question: should all “good” activist efforts now build-in options for slacktivism?]
  • Twitter was simplicity itself (183)
  • [regarding Egyptian case study…] Knowing they were being monitored, they then sent messages suggesting that many more of them were coming. The police sent reinforcements, surrounding and thus immobilizing the car themselves [which the protesters had threatened they themselves would do]. This kept Malek in place until the press and members of Parliament arrived (186)

About Maximilian C. Forte

I am a professor of anthropology at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. My areas of research and teaching interest are centered in Political Anthropology, with a focus on imperialism, neoliberalism and globalization, nationalism, democracy, and the international political economy of knowledge production.
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