lördag 5 april 2008

Smart Mobs

The next social revolution unites large geographically dispersed groups connected only by thin threads of communication technology - cell phones, text messaging, e-mail, websites, blogs, micro channels.

Large groups can be drawn together on a moment's notice to perform some collective action.

Political demonstrations are the classical example, but the actions doesn't have to political or ever take place in the streets.

The original smart mobs were "thumb tribes" in Tokyo and Helsinki who punched out short, cheap text messages on primitive cell phones to organize impromptu raves or to stalk their favorite celebrities. In Tokyo crowds of teenage fans would appear as if by magic at subway stops were a rock musician was rumored to be headed.

"Texting", as this practice is known, spread like the Hong Kong flu, especially in the developing world.

Texting did take slowly off in U.S., largely because the service was relatively expensive and far from ubiquitous. But that has changed since.

In Nigeria the technology was used to spark anti-Miss World riots that killed hundreds and drove the beauty contest out of Africa.

Supercomputer swarms have been built to search intelligent life in the universe or, more recently, find a cur for smallpox (see www.grid.org)

Gnutella networks and Napster used the same kind of "swarming". In these systems, groups of music enthusiasts gathered together. The were disperse in a dynamic, unpredictable way that made it easy for listeners to download free music (around 2003) but very devilishly difficult for copyright holders to crack down on the practice.

Since that time, the music industry has already been transformed - if not mortally wounded - by music piracy. After Napster Apple's iTunes and Nokia's "ovi" have emerged. There are many more. The "smart mobs" idea is spreading to big business trying to monetize on the social media revolution.

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