Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

Posted by nliakos on July 2, 2012

by Clay Shirky (Penguin Press, 2008)

I can’t believe it took me four years to read Shirky’s seminal work about crowdsourcing, political activism using Twitter and blogs, how Wikipedia works, why traditional news media are in crisis, “Meetup,” open source projects, and more. Much of what Shirky wrote here back in 2008 is not news in 2012, but it’s still worth reading. He was already predicting that mobile devices would be the next big thing. This is one smart guy.

Shirky explains the power law curve–the visual curve that expresses a relationship where large occurrences are rare and small ones are common. He finds instances of power law everywhere. In Wikipedia, for example, the bulk of the work on an article is done by just a few very committed people, while most people contribute just one tiny edit. Working together in this way, people can create something valuable.

I was reminded of the Electronic Village Online, the free professional development sessions offered each winter by TESOL’s CALL Interest Section. In every session I have been involved in either as a participant or as a co-moderator, I have observed that there is a relatively small number of very active participants and a very large number of lurkers. I had always seen that as somehow a failure of the session to garner enough enthusiasm on the part of everybody. After reading Shirky, I have come to realize it’s natural.

A power-law curve

Shirky’s prose is lucid and his ideas come across clearly. I am now looking forward to reading his new one: Cognitive Surplus. I hope it doesn’t take me four years to get around to it.

Links to Clay Shirky’s TED talks:

  1. “Clay Shirky on Institutions vs Collaboration” (2005) This talk serves as an introduction to Here Comes Everybody. Shirky explains the power-law distribution at length and uses many of the same examples he does in the book.
  2. “How Social Media Can Make History” (2009) Given the year following the publication of Here Comes Everybody, this talk also incorporates some of the ideas from the book (like social capital, “tools don’t get socially interesting until they are technologically boring”, and the 20th vs 21st century media landscape).
  3. “How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World” (2010) This one previews the next book. It mentions Ushahidi (a tool for crisis mapping) as an example of how people volunteer their talents for the good of others. Each talk is a few minutes shorter than the previous one!
  4. “Why SOPA Is a Bad Idea” (2012) Shirky’s explanation of the fight to create without the hindrance of copyright.
Advertisements

One Response to “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations”

  1. […] Clay Shirky’s first book is Here Comes Everybody. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: