Networked Creators

I had the rare privilege of being a guest lecturer at the University of Toronto today for Barry Wellman's Technology and Society class. Above all else, it was exciting (and nerve-wracking!) to be back at my alma mater on the other side of the classroom.

Covering content from one of two chapters I co-authored with Professor Wellman and Pew Internet's Lee Rainie from their upcoming book, Networked: The New Social Operating System, I spent time discussing what we like to call, "networked creators"- --the many non-credentialed amateurs who are now participating in the many arenas that were once limited to recognized and sanctioned experts. 

The internet, mobile, and social network revolution has ushered in a new generation of creators, blurring the lines between producers and consumers. As Douglas Rushkoff says, “The people have crashed the gates of professionalism, penetrating the formerly sacrosanct boundaries protecting elites of all industries from challenges from below”.

View the slides below for more...


Egypt: The First Internet Revolt?

This is a bit of a break from the usual whimiscal and light hearted posts that I seem to have been obsessed with lately, but Peace Magazine recently published an article that my mentor Barry Wellman, my colleague Xiaolin Zhuo, and I wrote about the revolts that rocked Egypt early this year and the role that information and communication technologies played. With no arrogance intended, I think it's an important read that takes a sobering look into the recent debate of social media's organizing capacity.

T-shirts for sale in Cairo commemorating the January 25, 2011 revolution. Photo by Zeynep Tufekci. Used by permission

“What brought Hosni Mubarak down was not Facebook and it was not Twitter. It was a million people in the streets, ready to die for what they believed in,” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently proclaimed.

Friedman appears to have had an either/or dichotomy in mind when assessing the Egyptian revolt that started in January 2011. That’s an oversimplification, ignoring not only the lack of opposition from the elites, military, and US government, but also the role of social media and the organized groups and informal networks that brought people to the streets. It’s clear that social media such as Facebook played important roles in transforming organized groups and informal networks, establishing external linkages, developing a sense of modernity and community, and drawing global attention. Their impact suggests that those concerned with the quest for democracy and peace should pay more attention to the explicit and implicit effects of these social media. Read the full article here.

Ripples of Hope

Woke up this morning to the euphoric messages and images coming from Egypt and words simply fail to capture the pure and unadulterated joy found on those streets right now. I've always been fascinated by similar revolutions of the past, many of which occurred before I was even born. But to watch the power of the people and their efforts unfold right before my eyes has brought a whole new level of meaning to what it means to fight for change. I simply stand in awe and admiration.

There is still much work ahead but today, let's just revel in this incredibly historic moment and celebrate the unwavering resolve of the Egyptian people. Can't help but pull up one of my favourite quotes that really speaks to what we've seen in the past few weeks:

Each time a man stands for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” - Robert F. Kennedy

Here's to Egypt and a better tomorrow!

Photo by Khaled Elfiqi