Web anthropologist and elder statesman Howard Rheingold got invited to address South Korea’s citizen journalism website OhmyNews by video, in light of the protests currently ongoing there in opposition to the importation of US beef. The video and a transcript are available for everyone to see, and Rheingold has some sensible things to say about the Pandora’s Box of smart mobs:
A smart mob is not necessarily a wise mob.
The technology itself does not guarantee peace or democracy. It really requires a literacy. It requires an informed citizenry. Journalism plays a role in that. Journalism brings to the people news they need to know about the workings of the State. And it helps bring public opinion to the policy makers to know that they cannot make policy that goes against the majority of opinions of the citizens.
Wise words, for sure – but the inference is that Rheingold recognises that smart mobs are simply one emergent property of recent technological advances … and that the same technology, with a very slight adjustment of attitude or motive by its users, can be used for oppression just as easily as liberation. [image by hojusaram]
New technologies, same old problems.