Unlike Yochai Benkler in The Wealth of Networks, Clay Shirky writes Here Comes Everybody in a more lighthearted manner that is easy to understand. Both books are about the topic of the Internet and how society is changing due to networks and people adopting new behaviors. Here Comes Everybody was published in 2008, two years after The Wealth of Networks and introduces some networks not mentioned by Benkler including Flickr, Youtube and Twitter. Between those two years alone, you can notice how fast networks and society are changing. Today, as I view my new Facebook timeline (for which I had to pose as a Facebook developer to get early), I continue to see how drastically things have changed.
When I started reading Here Comes Everybody, I raised some questions including the following: Isn’t the increase of social visibility detrimental to people and the possibility of being scrutinized publicly? Doesn’t the ease and speed of communication spread rumors that can be damaging to people and society? How can the ways we have changed communication, change and benefit society?
Shirky has not directly answered these questions, but as I have continued reading, the optimism I thought Skirky had towards the new communication tools has weakened. He brings up the point that in the Sidekick case, the 16-year-old girl’s information was publicly displayed making it easy to find her and be scrutinized. The board that was posted to get the phone returned quickly turned into a public bash of Sasha, Puerto Ricans, single mothers, and so on. But, it was impossible to manage all the conversations and by shutting down the board it would only defeat the purpose of the board to begin with.
One point that I would like Shirky to expand on that he brings up during the Sidekick case is the standard anonymity of Internet users. When people feel their identity is protected, they feel like they can post anything including rude, untrue posts. I wonder what Shirky would have thought of websites such as JuicyCampus.com that focused on college gossip, rumors and rants. This leads into my second question about the ease and speed that information can be disseminated. The ability to post a comment about another in a public setting that can easily be viewed by hundreds in a second has created problems in today’s society. Issues such as cyberbullying have created a lot of hype about the use of social networks. (In fact, yesterday on Mashable, a survey was posted titled: “56% of Teens Say They Have Been Bullied Online.” http://mashable.com/2011/09/27/56-of-teens-say-they-have-been-bullied-online-survey/) How can there be more restrictions on the Internet without limiting the freedom of speech? Are the networks positive or negative? I hope Shirky continues to answer these questions and does not only present both sides without an opinion.