Ridiculously easy group-forming

The title of this post comes from a quote by Seb Paquet in the book Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. This book is situated somewhere between the simplicity of Wikinomics and the complexity of The Wealth of Networks, which makes it a welcome addition to the field of social networks. Shirky’s analysis is excellent and is not just a repeat of the echo-chamber of the blogosphere. For example:

When we change the way we communicate, we change society. (p. 17)

You can think of group undertaking as a kind of ladder of activities, activities that are enabled or improved by social tools. The rungs on the ladder, in order of difficulty, are sharing, cooperation, and collective action. (p. 49)

It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive 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. (p. 105)

I saw social tools in action this week, when a parent/lawyer in Saint John, NB, was interviewed on the radio concerning the abolition of the early French immersion program in the province. The interviewer asked her what was the best way for other concerned parents to get involved. Her answer, “Facebook”. We now have tools for ridiculously easy group-forming, and these are being used at the local level by non-techies. Indeed, social media are getting close to “normal” even for those who are not so young.


Two groups on Facebook concerning EFI in NB (what Shirky would describe as “sharing”) have over 2,000 and 3,000 members respectively. The EFI Day of Protest has 104 Facebook members registered at this time (what Shirky would describe as “collective action”). As you go up the ladder, it requires more commitment, and you don’t get as many members. It’s interesting to watch this phenomenon and I’ll update the stats as time goes on, as well as confirm the actual numbers on the day of the protest.


9 Responses to “Ridiculously easy group-forming”

  1. Marsh

    Thanks for the excellent quotes and for your posts in general. I subscribed about a month ago, and have been enjoying your perspective.

    You might enjoy this recently posted mp3 of Brian Eno and Clay Shirky talking about the Power of Networks.

    (In case the markup gets stripped, here’s the url: http://www.mamk.net/?p=740 )

  2. Chas

    “and invisible is coming”


    There is no support for the idea that communication or any technology ever becomes invisible. Quite the opposite. Pervasive and corruptive is much more accurate. Cars, planes, telephones, PC’s, blue-tooth, are all disruptive technologies that strain the fabric of society in ever increasing ways. Pervasive, yes. But Invisible? Not in the least. My wife teaches. Recently emails were discovered detailing sexual assaults…DETAILING assaults on fellow 4th and 5th graders.

    Is this changing the kids? I think so.

  3. Dave Ferguson

    I read Harold’s meaning that technology becomes invisible in the sense of being taken for granted. Stewart Brand years ago predicted that computers were about to disappear from view the way motors had. “No one called the automobile…a personal railroad, but that’s what it was….then motors got smaller and disappeared into…toothbrushes, wristwatches…”

    I think most people assume now that other people have email and mobile phones. If like me someone has a land line, he’ll say, “This is my cell phone,” otherwise not. It’s just how you call him.

    Facebook and similar tools are still pretty new to many people, but I’m sure the St. John parent or one of her allies readily helps the newcomer put Facebook to use. “All you do is sign up, create an idea, and then…”

    In fact, I think that’s how this sort of tool moves into the midrange of the bell curve: people have a specific need/problem/opportunity (“keep the language immersion) and get the tool for that specific purpose. Success breeds confidence breeds extension to other realms in a person’s life.

  4. Gilbert

    It is a common saying that the luxury of one generation is the necessity of the
    next. Social networks are here to stay. So what will the next generation social network look like. How will Semantic and emerging technologies transform these network?

    And for those who argued a while back that this internet thing was a fad… hmmm… how wrong can someone be and still go to heaven.


  5. david

    there’s also a really interesting conversation between clay shirky and daniel goleman which one can listen to samples of at morethansound.net


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