Our guest, New York University's Clay Shirky, will discuss his new book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power Of Organizing Without Organizations, which describes how social networks like MySpace and Digg are allowing new kinds of collaborative action.
The book opens with the story of Ivanna, a woman who accidently left her Sidekick in the back of a New York City taxi two years ago. After offering a reward for its return, she waited a while, then shelled out to buy a new phone. Then she discovered that the original was in the hands of a teenage girl from Queens. Shirky writes, "She knew this because the girl was using it to take pictures of herself and her friends and e-mail them around; the photos taken on her old phone had been transferred to her new one."
Ivanna and her friend, Evan Guttman, got in touch with the girl to ask for the phone back, but the girl refused, in e-mails laced with racial invective and violent threats.
So Evan posted a Web page with the story and the teenager's photos. Shirky writes, "The story clearly struck a nerve. Evan was getting 10 e-mails a minute by people asking about the phone, offering encouragement, or volunteering to help." Some of those people were cops, and, although the NYPD initially refused to act on the reports, they reversed themselves under public pressure, arrested the teen, and recovered the phone.
The story of the lost Sidekick is a small example of an ongoing trend, as social media is enabling groups to form fast, grow large, and take broad action, without the kind of corporate and government expense and bureaucracy that has previously been required -- without even much leadership. Shirky explores how these changes are affecting society.
The change is hitting business as well, as customers find new ways to organize themselves into groups to either praise companies -- or attack them.
We'll talk with Shirky about these changes Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern time. To join us, visit the InformationWeek Live page on TalkShoe or call (724) 444-7444 Call ID: 12478 or visit us at the CMP Amphitheater in Second Life.
Shirky studies communications tools and how they affect social life, currently focusing on big, collaborative networks. He's on the faculty of NYU's graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program, and has worked as an adviser and consultant to organizations including Yahoo, Microsoft, the U.S. Navy, the BBC, and Lego, and social startups including Meetup, Social Text, del.icio.us, Flickr, and Dodgeball. He writes at shirky.com and the blog Here Comes Everybody.
The Second Life community will remember Shirky -- probably not fondly -- as the author of "A Story Too Good To Check." Written at the height of the Second Life hype bubble in December, 2006, the article casts a skeptical eye at predictions that virtual worlds would take over the Internet and change the world. I don't want to turn this into a discussion of a 14-month-old article, but since this program will be streamed into Second Life we'll try to devote at least a few minutes to some of the points Clay raises.
Note to our newsletter readers: Our InformationWeek Live report from India, previously scheduled for Feb. 26, is postponed to Tuesday, March 4. Hope that doesn't inconvenience anyone.