Say Hello to My Little Friends: Mobs and Social Capital

Unattached to a preceding term, a mob simply refers to a group of people, stemming from the Latin term mobile vulgus meaning fickle commoners. Coining the two-part term, “smart mob” Howard Rheingold investigates how a mob can act intelligently and collectively in our connected world of social media and mobile technology. Rheingold believes that our evolving communication technologies are a means of empowerment for us, the users. In Chapter 7, Rheingold delves specifically into the world of mobile technology and its impact and presence in our everyday lives and culture. Notably, Rheingold illuminates the importance of mobile technology in Philippines in the early 2000’s.  As a result of mobile technology and SMS texting, President Joseph Estrada of the Philippines became the first head of state in history to lose power to a smart mob. Such action demonstrates the applicable power of the collective use of mobile technology not only as a connecting emotional and intellectual force, but also as a potential to use such forces for true, tangible achievement.

Next, let’s consider for a moment Shirky’s interpretation of social capital (Chapter 8). Societies with more social capital “overall do better than societies with low social capital on a wide range of measurements, from crime rate to the costs of doing business to economic growth” (p. 192). Applying these defining characteristics to Rheingold’s discussion of mobile technology. The social capital produced by our ability to SMS and transfer ideas by means of our phones can thus be credited for the Philippine peoples’ overthrowing of Estrada. Can technology really produce social capital? In my opinion, connections sustained over the Internet or over mobile technology are not nearly as strong and powerful as those created and maintained with face-to-face interaction. While the former technologies are often just a means of “keeping in touch” rather than actually forming these bonds, I nevertheless believe that seeing someone face to face repeatedly created stronger bonds and a thus a greater sense of social capital.  Our generation constantly relies on technology to connect with others and I believe the next generation will be less able to relate and create bonds with others in person because of such reliance and dependence. Does this argument seem fathomable? Others might argue that evolving technologies are only creating supplemental pathways to create social capital; do you find this argument a stronger one?

Please integrate your own experiences and findings when replying.

 

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