Technological Progress and Collective Action

Even from the field’s earliest days, developments in computer science have served to increase cooperation and shared knowledge. This week’s Turner reading discussed the influence of the commune lifestyle on early computer scientists. They were influenced by the spirit of cooperation found in the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. These pioneers focused their work on developing technologies which would allow individuals to come together through a technology-mediated interface in order to combine knowledge bases and achieve large-scale goals which would otherwise be impossible.

This focus on the collective good has continued to the modern era of the internet and social media, as highlighted in this week’s Shirky reading. Whether or not you believe that a sixteen-year-old unwed mother should be arrested for what could be considered a case of ‘finders keepers,’ the opportunity for one individual to start a worldwide campaign and build a knowledge base to traverse the New York legal system over a matter of days is clearly impressive. This feat would have been impossible at any other time in history, and embodies technology’s ability to bring people together to fight for a common cause.

This capacity for collective action has increased as the cost of these technological developments has decreased, and their accessibility has increased. This makes me wonder where these developments are headed. What current examples of collective action have been in the media recently and what are their implications for future change.

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3 Responses to Technological Progress and Collective Action

  1. jesslinton says:

    I definitely agree that as technology advances and accessibility increases, we start to see a major change in the public’s ability to take collective action. Our generation’s personality stems primarily from our ability to interact and communicate with anyone we want to at any given time. We are very accustomed to taking action, even though it may not necessarily be physical. Obviously, increasing forms of communication help us express our thoughts and feelings on any subject matter we choose, and from there we can rally anyone interested who has access to these expressions. The potential is astounding, but where I see our generation falling flat is what happens beyond the computer screen. It’s hard to persuade people to take physical action when they’re accustomed to doing everything on a personal computer. However, as technology advances, there may come a day where we can actually implement whatever changes we would like to without needing physical action. In fact, we’ve already seen it. As far as I know, there was no March-on-Washington-like protest against the once looming SOPA act. All the protesting was done as an online community, and that’s very powerful.

  2. bdisant611 says:

    Technological advancements have, without a doubt, have caused the citizens of our generation to have the greatest quantity of public taking stances and actions on issues. The problem is the quality of these actions. Like Jess said before me, people’s idea of a protest has gone from a radical outcry to a quick post on the comment section of Youtube. This past year, our generation has collectively took up a cause that was unique to this present digital age. The KONY 2012 internet video, chronicling the exploits of an African warlord, was spread across the United States in a matter of minutes. Facebook and Twitter helped the 20 minute video explode. It currently has over 92 million views on YouTube. Despite all this publicity, did anyone ever do anything about it. There was no grand protest in Washington to get stricter in enforcing war crimes restrictions in Africa. Neither was there a movement of young Americans volunteering to help. There is no question that the technological developments of today can take collective action to a whole new level, but you have to ask if it will cause our to generation to demand real changes and fight for them, or if it will just hurt the effort level on the causes people do choose to take up.

  3. goblu says:

    I do agree that technology in the 21st century has allowed citizens to not only interact with others across the world but has also given people the ability to define what the news means to them. The new media gives people a new kind of voice, like what you described in your example of the “finders keepers” case. In the past most people would have just heard about the news from a couple of sources, now it is the citizens telling the story. With that being said, your question of where is technology headed is an intriguing one, because it could be headed in a dangerous direction. With the average citizen being able to tweet or post about any issue, the point of validity must be raised. The technological developments are headed in a positive way because the masses are able to get information. In my opinion, however, the most important piece is keeping the information reliable while the technology grows so that the collective action is a positive one.

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