Blogging was where we began, and how we built our company so we have preserved this archive to show how our thinking developed over a decade of developing the use of social technology inside organisations

Boring technology can become socially interesting

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Along with half the London tech scene yesterday, I attended Clay Shirky’s RSA lecture to accompany the publication of his book Here Comes Everybody. The event was ably and intelligently chaired by Nico Macdonald
Kevin Anderson took great notes of the talk, but the key points that sum it up were

  • We are in an age when technology becomes boring, it can become socially interesting.
  • Group action just got a lot easier, and joining up distributed groups in a way we could not do before is changing the balance of power between people and institutions.
  • Online groups and collective action are the experimental wing of political philosophy
  • “Thinking is for doing” (William James); every URL is a latent community and the media are moving from a source of info to a site of action
  • We need something like UK Community Interest Company structures for public groups – goal directed structures needed to go beyond protest culture – socially stable but not needing major institutional baggage.
  • Bottom up is never enough – eventually you run into the governance problem and the question who decides and who guards the guardians. These are ancient problems of sociability.
  • Social density has a great deal to do with like-for-like clustering, which feeds into social exclusion. Only a handful of individuals bridge distinct groups. Clay recommends supporting the bridgers rather than directly targeting ‘in-group’ people as a way of reducing social exclusion.
  • It takes a decade for tools to become technologically boring enough to become socially interesting, which is why Clay said (slightly tongue in cheek) that the next big thing will be … email! 😉

He told three stories that encapsulate this phenomenon

And as if to illustrate the difference between old-style PR and new forms of popular organisation, Lord Bell (who helped ex-UK PM Margaret Thatcher to win three elections in the 1980s) announced yesterday that he was considering helping the Belarussian despot Lukashenko with his “image”. I wonder how he would recommend dealing with the ice-cream eating youngsters in Oktober Square. As Clay said yesterday

Nothing says dictatorship like arresting people for eating ice cream

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