The Next Social Revolution
Copyright © 2003-2007 Isabel Pedersen
Rheingold uses several moments in this book to define his term “Smart Mobs”. At one point he writes:
Mobile ad hoc social network is a longer more technical term than “smart mob.” Both terms describe the new social form made possible by the combination of computation, communication, reputation, and location awareness . . . Social network means that every individual in a smart mob is a “node” in the jargon of social network analysis, with social “links” (channels of communication and social bonds) to other individuals. (Rheingold, 169-170)
Rheingold studies the social phenomenon that mobile and wearable networked devices beget. While he writes optimistically about these changes, he also seeks to avoid “the rhetoric of the technological sublime” (xxi). He maneuvers this position to his study by accepting that these changes are already a lived social fact, for better or worse. He gives lists of examples from around the globe that support his claims. He writes, “smart mobs are not always beneficial. Lynch mobs and mobocracies continue to engender atrocities. The same convergence of technologies that opens new vistas of cooperation also makes possible a universal surveillance economy and empowers the bloodthirsty as well as the altruistic” (xviii).
The chapter names “Smart Mobs: The Power of the Mobile Many” is particularly revealing. In it, he concentrates on points of conflict and cooperation that are fueled or at least enabled by mobile networks and the individuals who are wearing the technology. He hero-izes computer-wearer Steve Mann, as an advocate for this sort of mass social change.
Rheingold juggles Foucault, Goffman, and other cultural studies giants to support some very compelling commentary on society and mobile technology.