Friday, March 4, 2011

Assignment 2: Smart Mobs: The power of the mobile many

Assignment 2: Power of Mobile Many
Title: SMART MOBS: The Next Social Revolution
Author Surname: Rheingold   
Author First Name: Howard   
Publication Date: 2002   
Chapter Title: Smart Mobs: Power of the Mobile Many (chapter 7).   
Publisher: Perseus Publishing   
Page Numbers: pp 157 - 182   
Tags & Keywords: smartmob; network; p2p   
Smart Mobs: The power of the mobile many
Rheingold (2002) in his book titled Smart Mobs discusses the empowerment of masses through communication and technology. The people equipped with smart phones are able to achieve far greater things than their predecessors. The question of power is obvious in title.
                        Chapter seven in the book titled, “The power of mobile many” stands out so well as evidence new structures of power in our day and age. With the crisis in Middle East and Africa, there was no time in our history when the role of technology was so influential in empowering the people. How the cell phone users with smart mobile phones could bypass a generation of technological evolution, what we call leapfrog, and enter into this area of empowerment. Rheingold, in this chapter brings about where all this began. Estrada, the former Philippine president was the first in history to be dethroned by the smart mob. The coordinated effort by the mob through e-mails and text messages brought tens of thousands onto the streets of Manila forcing the government to act.
            The author explains further how the smart mobs function to organise themselves in different areas of human life – protest squads in Seattle; instantaneous protests against gasoline etc. (Rheingold, 2002, p.158). All these protests show how easy it was for the people to create a network of like minded people and share information. Here people function as hubs and nodes. (Rheingold, 2002, p.163).
            Besides these violent demonstrations the power of technologies allowed people to create networks of relationships. The story of Imahima (Rheingold, 2002, p, 165) from Japan and Upoc (universal point of contact) from New York, point to the fact of peer to peer collaboration in building up ideas and relationships. These participatory endeavours lead to forming groups and communities.
            The ability to send videos in real time to web sites; which we may not consider a big deal today, might be a huge step almost ten years ago when this book was written (Rheingold, 2002, p. 169). The powerful technological tools enabled individuals to be powerful nodes in the network of creation. As the chapter points out the idea of power is seen with a new meaning.
            Scott Lash (2007) in an article titled, Power after Hegemony: Cultural Studies in Mutation? describes very well the meaning of power in different cultural and technological contexts. “Lash suggests that in place of ‘discourse’ and ‘cognitive judgment’, power ‘has become more sinister in a post-hegemonic age … it penetrates your very being’ (Rheingold, 2002, p.59). Lash describes this as the ‘vitalization of power’ (Rheingold, 2002, p.69) where power is a part of our ‘being’; it lives with us and reacts to us. This is where ‘power, previously extensive and operating from without, becomes intensive and now works from within’. This movement of power to the inside has a knock-on effect on ‘organization’, which is usurped by forms of ‘self-organization’” (as cited in Beer, 2009, p.993). Lash (2007) “does not claim that these new forms of power erase the power structures of the past, but instead that a ‘society of ubiquitous media means a society in which power is increasingly in the algorithm’ ( as cited in Beer, p.71).
            The tasks achieved by ant hives as a group are tremendous. Colonies of ants working together can achieve greater strength than an individual ant. The imagery used by Rheingold summarises the collaborative power of mobile many. The collaborative potential of the new technology allow us to create and share a “social intelligence”.

Rheingold, H. (2002). Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution; Cambridge: Perseus Press.
Lash, S. (2007). Power after Hegemony Cultural Studies in Mutation?; Theory, Culture &             Society, 24(3), 55–78.

Beer, D (2009). Power through the algorithm? Participatory web cultures and the technological unconscious. New Media & Society 11(6), 985–1002.

Hermida, A., & Thurman, N.  (2008). A Clash of Cultures: The integration of user-generated content within professional journalistic frameworks at British newspaper websites; Journalism Practice, 2(3), 343-356.

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