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Here Comes Everybody

Clay Shirky

We are in the middle of a whole new way of dealing - huge incr in ability to share and to take collective action, all outside traditional framework of institutions or organizations. By making it easier for groups to self-assemble, and for people to contribute without having to be managed, the new tools radically altered the old limits on the scope of unsupervised effort.

The music industry was smashed by the discovery that the reproduction and distribution of music, previously a valued and valuable service, is now something customers could do themselves.

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All businesses are media businesses at some level - they manage info to their employees and their clients. But now an unprecedented incr in the amount of info available to these groups outside traditional channels. And, not only do people have unprecedented access to receive info, they have a new capacity to send it as well.

Two separate sex scandals Boston Catholic Church involving paedophile priests who had been protected by the Church - 1992 and 2002. In each case the priest had raped many boys, and had just been moved by hierachy intent on protecting the Church. 1992 expose started with a series of articles in the Boston Globe, but Bishop Law toughed it out, and the anger eventually petered out. 2002 had same beginning, but this time angry parishioners could access news instantly via the Internet. They easily self-organised and easily ran a wide info sharing campaign, and this time, the bishop was forced to resign.

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But campaign went further. Church's standard PR had always had 2 prongs: 'It was an isolated aberration' 'We didn't know'. But these lies were exposed. Online groups sprang up to co-ordinate and organise all the info on abuse. When a bishop was confronted with links to 20 virtually identical stories of abuse and cover-up, it becomes very difficult to deny.

In 2006 BBC produced a doco on the Church's handling of abuse, called 'Sex, Crimes and The Vatican'. The Church tried to prevent it being shown on Italian TV, but a group of bloggers got it up on YouTube with subtitles, forcing the Church to withdraw its censorship.

Not so much that social networks create collective action, they simply remove obstacles to it; obstacles that have been so significant that their removal is changing the world significantly

The White Bicycle Project. Some Dutch activists felt that Big Govt had underestimated basic human goodness. They placed a few dozen white painted bicycles on streets of Amsterdam, free for anyone to use. It was an almost instant failure. Within a month the whole lot had been stolen or thrown in the canals. The only communal bike projects which have succeeded are ones which use security, lock the bikes up and access through credit cards. Turns out, that despite Dutch guys optimism, if there's opportunity to misbehave, and little penalty for doing so, enough people will behave antisocially to wreck things for everyone

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Social systems don't work on just idealism - have to have some governance, just as the White Bicycle Project showed. Same thing happened with eBay - started out trying to trust everyone, but after first couple of months enough transactions were going awry that had to institute reputation monitor

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Reputation Control .................................................................................................................................................Client William Flew