Through the growth of technology and communication the inkling of an idea can become a full-scale movement. By looking at Shirky’s earlier discussions on communications and broadcast media, and later discussions of promise, tool, and bargain we can see how quickly a group is able to form out of common interest and take that interest to the next level by creating change.
The growth of technology comes into play when looking at the ‘tool’ portion of the group’s success. Because a member of the group is able to relay information to the masses (broadcast media) and at the same time receive feedback and engage in conversation with other members of the group (communications media) technology is able to assist the spreading of information in groups.
The ability to form groups out of common (or not so common) interests can be catalyzed by websites such as Meetup. As Shirky says, “We gather together because we like to, and because it is useful” (195). One case is to look at Twitter. While it isn’t defined as such, Twitter is essentially an extremely large group of people who like to talk. Common interests are discovered through the people who tweet about the same things and/or use the same hashtags. Trending topics are a way to see which common interests are the most popular at the current time. Twitter is the prime example of watching an idea grow.
In the Epilogue, Shirky relays a brief account of a post-movie group formation after a showing of Michael Moore’s Sicko. After the movie, Josh Tyler observes that people were quickly rallied into doing something after seeing the movie, and were able to do so through common interest and the ability to gather enough information to form an e-mail group. This example shows how the promise of a successful group was established through the reaction to the movie, and how the tools to form a group so quickly were already available. However, as Josh Tyler observes, no one seemed to know what this ‘do something’ was. While the large part of ‘bargain’ was left out of this group’s success, it is still easy to see how one movie could have inspired a social change.
Since the formation of groups and ability to change has come so readily accessible, would a trending topic have the ability to trend long enough to create a social movement?