19 Oct 2009 – Amazon (I had a lot of Amazon vouchers from the previous Xmas/Bday to spend!)

Apparently this book is quite controversial – I haven’t looked at any reviews up to now as I don’t want to influence this one.

Shirky does seem to spend a fairly substantial book telling us that new technology has given us new ways to form new types of – and larger –  groups, which in turn is starting to change the way people interact with each other and with traditional organisations such as corporations and governments.  He gives lots of examples, for instance students getting together on Facebook to complain against HSBC’s treatment of their overdrafts, and the huge amount of information which poured out of China after the recent earthquakes, as examples of the latter, and services such as Flickr and Wikipedia, which allow the pooling of information and images without traditional management. 

The author does rely on other people’s research a fair bit, weaving in current luminaries such as Malcolm Gladwell and the people looking at six degrees of separation.  But then little research is completely new and it does ground the work into other people’s systems.  It’s really good on the history and actual workings of phenomena such as Meet Up (this section mentions BookCrossing!) and Wikipedia, and I think this is what actually gives the book its main worth to me, as a document of the times we’re living in now, quite a few technologies and groups with which I interact, rather than as a ground-breaking work with a lot of new information in it.

Right – now I’ll go and see what the controversy was about!