Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold is an in-depth look at a social interaction in the digital age.
Rheingold’s definition of a smart mob is a group of people with technological similarities. People with blackberries, cell phones, computers and other such items belong to this crowd, but what makes the owners of these items a group is interaction. People may not know each other in real life, only through cyberspace, but they clearly relate to one another and interact, even if it is on an impersonal basis.
I, for one, interact in a similar manner through World of Warcraft. I am part of a group of people that interacts regularly without prior knowledge of many of the group members and there are no constrains of physical proximity. The group is a hodgepodge of friends, family, co-workers, and the occasional random addition. People are from all over the country (California, Ohio, DC, Tennessee and Colorado, to name a few), have varying socio-economic statuses (pregnant stay-at-home moms, body builders, engineers, accountants, people living their parents’ basement, grocery store clerks, students), all ages (from about 16-60) and probably ethnically diverse, although I cannot tell given our medium of connection. On to the point.
People of all walks of life are now connected and can have a serious impact on society if they are properly motivated. For instance, people using text-messages overthrew then President of Manila, Joseph Estrada. This is bound to happen again.
Smart Mobs has a few other interesting points. The book says that youth adapt to new technology to stay in touch with their peers; technology will adapt to society, not the other way around; and that the original computer programmers operated on these principles, known as the hacker ethic: “Access to computers should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative. All information should be free. Mistrust authority – promote decentralization.” Gotta love the hacker ethic, I live or die by it.
Another interesting topic is augmented reality. Augmented reality is adding hyperlinks to everything you can see. Imagine walking down the street, being able to point your phone at a restaurant to get reviews, the menu, pricing and the how long the wait for seating will take. It could also be used on a tree to pull up a wikipedia entry, or even something about natural foliage for the area. The possibilities are endless, but in order for this to happen we have to have the capability and carry the device. It sounds like singularity is coming ever closer to reality.
Some people, mostly tech types in research, have adapted computers for augmented reality, and wear them around. These people have everything from scanners and eyepieces that give results to wi-fi capablilities. To some extent, people are already adapting to the idea of wearable computers. PDAs, Blackberries, cell phones, iPods and the like are all wearable and enhance reality.
Finally, Smart Mobs talks about reputation. Reputation is used on the web in a variety of forms, people rate interacts will sellers on ebay and Amazon, rate articles on social news feeds and link to other pages increase their relevance on search engines. We need to manage our social reputation because in the future our dealings on the internet may have an affect on real life.