Clay Shirkey details numerous ways we’re changing the way we organize ourselves in “Here Comes Everybody the Power of Organizing Without Organizations.” He asserts that today’s communication tools are facilitating this change in behavior by making it easier to accomplish large- and small-scale organizing.

While his examples highlight the power of collaborative production and collective action, it seems other changes are happening too. Proximity (or at least our views on it) is changing – instant global communications are changing the dynamics of our collective cultural awareness and shifting our views of perceived closeness. Technology is allowing us to connect with and organize with others that we once thought we had no connections with and no vested interest in. That shift is changing what constitutes a community.

New technology is also changing the economics of organizing. Shirkey cites relatively no cost in online organizing and production. Beyond that, we’re working for free in online collaborative efforts and expecting free content. Shirky discusses Wikipedia extensively in how by removing process and product cost, the collaborative work is shared freely.

At what extent will this new model consume other, older production practices? For products that don’t require a physical manifestation, will this model prevail? Consider product manuals that come with consumer products. What if those were shared online by the manufacturer but turned into wiki articles that allowed consumers to shared troubleshooting tips, additional clarification and even additional materials could be shared. Think of being about to find an entire gallery of photos detailing the process after cursing at the poorly drawn graphic in the traditional manual.

Could this model takeover or could the inverse just as easily come true? Could our collaboration backfire from information overload and pervasive groupthink? To what ends will organizing continue to evolve and what unexpected byproducts could manifest? As Shirky points out, the ball is already in motion and, if a group as large and divinely connected as the Catholic Church can’t stop it, what chance do we have if it goes off the rails?

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