Thursday, October 23, 2008

Here Comes Everybody

That's the title of Clay Shirky’s newest book. There's lots of great stuff in here. I liked this bit for example:

Communication tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring. The invention of a tool doesn’t create change; it has to have been around long enough that most of society is using it. It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so persuasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen, and for young people today, our new social tools have passed normal and are heading to ubiquitous, and invisible is coming.

We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race. More people can communicate more things to more people than has ever been possible in the past, and the size and speed of this increase, from under one million participants to over one billion in a generation, makes the change unprecedented, even considered against the background of previous revolutions in communications tools.

Many of the ideas in the book are not new, and most have already been treated in earlier works, but if you only want to read one book about recent changes in information and communication technology (ICT), this would be it. It is hard to excerpt because the thoughts extend across paragraphs and don’t make for good soundbites. And it is refreshing to read a communications book by someone who understands the lump of labor fallacy (See Krugman for a great article about the fallacy, in the form of a book review, although he never mentions the term directly.)

Here’s a more detailed review. Cory Doctorow has a gushing review at BoingBoing and links to a talk by Shirky at Harvard. On a personal note the title bugs me since I cannot get You All Everybody from Lost out of my head, and yeah, I get that is not the right reference to draw. Also, the blogging wife was quick to point out that the photo for the book’s cover (US version) is not very representative - everyone is white. Whoops.

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