Howard Rheingold


This morning's keynote presentation is Howard Rheingold on "Technology Innovation and Collective Action." Howard is the author of many books. The book which really brought him to the attention of geeks was The Virtual Community about his experiences in the Well. The latest is a book that has had some popularity called Smart Mobs. I picked up a copy yesterday but haven't had a chance to start it.

Howard's message this morning is "You can create tools that amplify collective action: innovate our way out of the enclosures growing around us." His theme is collective action. He contrasts this with collectivism. Collective action is people voluntarily working together to create some common good and is the basis of civilization.

Howard mentions the use of social software and mobile technology in politics. He claims that technology played a major roll in turning around the recent electioins in Korea and in monitoring elections in Kenya. I would agree and take it beyond mere politics to the realm of eGovernment. I think that the transparency engendered by eGovernment can play a significant role in changing government and driving appropriate social behavior.

He has an interesting take on RIAA and DRM. He notes the change that took place with the PC wherein consumers of computing services became users of computing services. The result of DRM would be to turn us back into mere consumers and only people who worked at certain places would be allowed to be users.

Howard tells the story of having an iPAQ that was enabled to read bar codes. He pointed it at a box of prunes and the UPC was linked to information about the company, product, etc. Each of these was linked to a Google search. The top item in the search on the company that produced the prunes as a Supreme Court decision about them and their labor practices. His point is that every thing has a story. Howard asks the question "who will be allowed to read and write these stories?"