Howard Rheingold, one of my mentors, friend, and former editor of the Whole Earth Review who has written some of my favorite books about the mind and thinking recently writes books about "the next big thing" in technology starting with Virtual Reality, Virtual Communties and now Smart Mobs.
The big battle coming over the future of smart mobs concerns media cartels and government agencies are seeking to reimpose the regime of the broadcast era in which the customers of technology will be deprived of the power to create and left only with the power to consume. That power struggle is what the battles over file-sharing, copy protection, regulation of the radio spectrum are about. Are the populations of tomorrow going to be users, like the PC owners and website creators who turned technology to widespread innovation? Or will they be consumers, constrained from innovation and locked into the technology and business models of the most powerful entrenched interests? HOWARD RHEINGOLD: SMART MOBS [7.16.02]John Brockman, literary agent extraordinaire and editor and publisher of Edge writes about Howard's new book. (John Brockman is also the sponsor of the Billionaire's Dinner)
Introduction In 1999 and 2000, Howard Rheingold started noticing people using mobile media in novel ways. In Tokyo, he accompanied flocks of teenagers as they converged on public places, coordinated by text messages. In Helsinki, he joined like-minded Finns who share the same downtown physical clubhouse, virtual community, and mobile-messaging media. He learned that the demonstrators in the 1999 anti-WTO protests used dynamically updated websites, cell-phones, and "swarming" tactics in the "battle of Seattle," and that a million Filipino citizens toppled President Estrada in 2000 through public demonstrations organized by salvos of text messages. Drivers in the UK used mobile communications to spontaneously self organize demonstrations against rising petrol prices. He began to see how these events were connected. He calls these new uses of mobile media "smart mobs." For nearly two years, Rheingold visited hotspots around the world where smart mob technologies and societies were erupting. He had some idea of how to look for early signs of momentous changes, having chronicled and forecast the PC revolution in 1985 and the Internet explosion in 1993. He is now sees a third wave of change underway in the first decade of the 21st century, as the combination of mobile communication and the Internet makes it possible for people to cooperate in ways never before possible. — JBHoward's been working on this book for awhile and this topic is perfect for Howard and perfect timing for us. It's amazing considering how much fieldwork Howard does, how Howard is always there at the right place at the right time. But I'm sure it's not luck. ;-) I think that people have all over-estimated the short term impact of the Net, but the issues that Howard discusses are many of the core issues that the Net combined with mobile communications will impact. These issues change the face of media and communications, which will change the whole notion of the "public." This shift will finally change the balance of power in economy, politics and society more and more to the people. (I hope. ;-) )