theorycast.42 :: When SmartMobs Go Wrong…


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While having our Saturday brunch at The Washington Market in downtown Buffalo, Shady, Ken Fujiuchi and I chat about how the ease of participation online has subsequently given rise to collective action (e.g. Smartmobs), which has mostly been seen as either efficient or entertaining.

In recent history, the same could also be said of antagonistic forms of collective action, where greater forms of anarchy online spills over into the real world mostly in the form of psychological attacks. For instance, see CNN: From flash mob to lynch mob and Anti-Tibetian attacks on Chinese student: Grace Wang.

Though this current scenario could be argued in various ways, I offered the pretext of Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” (1993) as a way to understand why some cultures seem to challenged by practices of online democracy. Dubbed as Internet hate machines by some, such discourse could possibly be located around Anonymous (group meme) and 4chan (English version of Japanese 2chan) as examples. For a reality check, Shady mentioned how even in the pre-Internet days, such collective participation and its follies have been observed in places such as town hall meetings.

How do we reduce or even resolve frictional, unethical powers on the Internet?
While we’d like to hope that a Darwinian approach would naturally have online societies “sort themselves out”, some civilizations have been concerned that they might not survive this phase and have taken steps to manage it, such as through legitimate forms of Internet regulation (e.g. China). We discuss its immediate environment and challenges involved.

2 Comments

  1. Posted June 16, 2008 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    Wait, you mean smart mobs sometimes behave as… mobs?

  2. Posted June 16, 2008 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    Alex, nothing surprising there? ;)
    The question really is the “smart” element of smartmobs. Whether the “intelligent collective” is not only able to be coordinate the most economically viable course of action, but also able to discern an ethical course of action as well.