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Smart mobs - mobile phone for collective action

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The premise of 'Smart Mobs' was that the mobile telephone, the personal computer and the Internet were merging into a new medium that would have its own characteristics. It would take some time for people to start using this device in ways that they'd not used the telephone or the Internet or the PC and to begin to recognize its uniqueness. For one thing, these devices presumably would know where they are, using GPS technology. They would even know where they were looking, using things like accelerometers and magnetometers. Given this context awareness of these personal devices, what kinds of social practices would emerge? That was the premise of the book. The fundamental basic conclusion was that this is a radical and extremely powerful new step in a long-term coevolution of human creation of technologies that enable new ways to communicate, and that when those new ways to communicate engender literate populations, those literate populations do things together in new ways that they weren't able to do before. What sociologists call 'collective action'. Everything from agriculture to warfare to international telephone systems is a form of collective action. When I wrote the book I used it in the political sphere. The example of the Philippine citizens who used SMS messages to organize demonstrations that ended up bringing down the Estrada regime. The president of the Philippines was toppled by people using mobile phones to pass the word around. That struck me as a threshold event. Since then I've documented - and certainly this is just scratching the surface - over 90 different political events, self-organized, using mobile telephones and the Internet, most recently and most prominently, the use of social media and smart mob tactics by the Obama campaign in the US. I could go on and on. In Africa, monitoring elections where there was fear of corruption, people with mobile phones communicating with radio stations. In China, many, many, many incidents, including the information about the SARS epidemic which the Chinese government tried to keep a lid on, but there were 150 million SMS messages in three days about it, so the word got out.

Added on 28 Mar 2017