Synopses & Reviews
Read Clay Shirky's posts on the Penguin Blog.
A revelatory examination of how the wildfirelike spread of new forms of social interaction enabled by technology is changing the way humans form groups and exist within them, with profound long-term economic and social effects-for good and for ill
A handful of kite hobbyists scattered around the world find each other online and collaborate on the most radical improvement in kite design in decades. A midwestern professor of Middle Eastern history starts a blog after 9/11 that becomes essential reading for journalists covering the Iraq war. Activists use the Internet and e-mail to bring offensive comments made by Trent Lott and Don Imus to a wide public and hound them from their positions. A few people find that a world-class online encyclopedia created entirely by volunteers and open for editing by anyone, a wiki, is not an impractical idea. Jihadi groups trade inspiration and instruction and showcase terrorist atrocities to the world, entirely online. A wide group of unrelated people swarms to a Web site about the theft of a cell phone and ultimately goads the New York City police to take action, leading to the culprit's arrest.
With accelerating velocity, our age's new technologies of social networking are evolving, and evolving us, into new groups doing new things in new ways, and old and new groups alike doing the old things better and more easily. You don't have to have a MySpace page to know that the times they are a changin'. Hierarchical structures that exist to manage the work of groups are seeing their raisons d'tre swiftly eroded by the rising technological tide. Business models are being destroyed, transformed, born at dizzying speeds, and the larger social impact is profound.
One of the culture's wisest observers of the transformational power of the new forms of tech-enabled social interaction is Clay Shirky, and Here Comes Everybody is his marvelous reckoning with the ramifications of all this on what we do and who we are. Like Lawrence Lessig on the effect of new technology on regimes of cultural creation, Shirky's assessment of the impact of new technology on the nature and use of groups is marvelously broad minded, lucid, and penetrating; it integrates the views of a number of other thinkers across a broad range of disciplines with his own pioneering work to provide a holistic framework for understanding the opportunities and the threats to the existing order that these new, spontaneous networks of social interaction represent. Wikinomics, yes, but also wikigovernment, wikiculture, wikievery imaginable interest group, including the far from savory. A revolution in social organization has commenced, and Clay Shirky is its brilliant chronicler.
and#8220;This book will make people sit up and think in a new way about a timely set of issues. Tkaczand#8217;s argument is not predictable or one-dimensional. Instead, it is productive of new knowledge at each step. Each new layer of argument uncovers riches of detail, new bibliographies of current research, and surprising new directions of thought. His argument balances nicely between powerful general statements and compelling concrete demonstrations.and#8221;
and#8220;A crucial intervention in the field of new media studies. The book thinks rigorously about participation and collaboration as few others do. It is certain to generate much excitement, debate, and even controversy.and#8221;
and#8220;Highly original and delightfully written, Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness is one of the finest pieces of work I have read in the field of network cultures and software studies. Tkacz has undertaken a comprehensive critique of opennessand#8212;or open politicsand#8212;as it manifests across a range of institutional and social-technical settings. This book has all the key ingredients to make a substantial impact in debates surrounding network governance and software politics.and#8221;
andldquo;Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness is an important book. . . . At one level it is a fascinating inside look at the operations of Wikipedia andndash; from someone who clearly knows and understands it from the inside. . . . At the next level, Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness is a critique not just of Wikipedia but of the whole idea of openness andndash; one of the sacred cows of the internet, something considered almost beyond criticism. . . . Tkacz challenges assumptions and forces you to question your own views, particularly about openness itself.andrdquo;
andldquo;Tkaczandrsquo;s book is an important reminder to be critical of any discourse that advocates technology as a one-solution-fits-all quick fix. His analysis of Wikipedia demonstrates, in fine detail, that hierarchy does not disappear when digital collaboration is added to the mix. Indeed, it is often precisely the opposite.andrdquo;
Shirky examines how technology is changing the way humans form groups and exist within them, and the resulting long-term economic and social effects.
In this book, Nathaniel Tkacz turns a critical eye toward the new open politics through an analysis of the most celebrated open project to date, Wikipedia. Where, he asks, does the current notion of openness come from, and to what political situation does it speak? Tkacz argues that open politics has been shaped by a series of developments in software cultures in the 80s and 90s, which were carried forward into the participatory web cultures of the last decade. With a critique of those cultures as his starting point, Tkacz turns to the messy realities of Wikipedia. He weaves together discussions of edit wars, article deletion policies, bots, Wikipediaand#8217;s and#147;five pillarsand#8221; (fundamental principles), user access levels, mailing list archives, and the 2002 Spanish fork controversy. The resulting picture of Wikipedia contrasts starkly with much previous commentary. Wikipedia is not proof of and#147;the wisdom of the crowds,and#8221; Tkacz argues, but neither does it reflect and#147;the cult of the amateurand#8221;; it is not an example of and#147;good faith collaborationand#8221; or a model for new collaborative business practices (and#147;Wikinomicsand#8221;), but neither is it simply the latest instantiation of the bureaucratic form. In demystifying Wikipedia, Tkacz helps break and#147;the spell of open politics.and#8221;
Few virtues are as celebrated in contemporary culture as openness. Rooted in software culture and carrying more than a whiff of Silicon Valley technical utopianism, opennessand#151;of decision-making, data, and organizational structureand#151;is seen as the cure for many problems in politics and business.
But what does openness mean, and what would a political theory of openness look like? With Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness, Nathaniel Tkacz uses Wikipedia, the most prominent product of open organization, to analyze the theory and politics of openness in practiceand#151;and to break its spell. Through discussions of edit wars, article deletion policies, user access levels, and more, Tkacz enables us to see how the key concepts of opennessand#151;including collaboration, ad-hocracy, and the splitting of contested projects through and#147;forkingand#8221;and#151;play out in reality.
The resulting book is the richest critical analysis of openness to date, one that roots media theory in messy reality and thereby helps us move beyond the vaporware promises of digital utopians and take the first steps toward truly understanding what openness does, and does not, have to offer.
About the Author
Clay Shirky teaches at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, where he researches the interrelated effects of our social and technological networks. He has consulted with a variety of Fortune 500 companies working on network design, including Nokia, Lego, the BBC, Newscorp, Microsoft, as well as the Library of Congress, the U.S. Navy, and the Libyan government. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London, Harvard Business Review, Business 2.0, and Wired, and he is a regular keynote speaker at tech conferences. Mr. Shirky lives in Brooklyn.
Table of Contents
1 Open Politics
2 Sorting Collaboration Out
3 The Governance of Forceful Statements: From Ad-Hocracy to Ex Corpore
4 Organizational Exit and the Regime of Computation
5 Controversy in Action
Conclusion: The Neoliberal Tinge
Appendix A: Archival Statements from the Depictions of Muhammad Debate
Appendix B: Selections from the Mediation Archives