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April 22-25, 2003, Santa Clara -Explore. Invent. Connect.


Technology Innovation and Collective Action
Howard Rheingold

Track: Keynote
Date: Wednesday, April 23
Time: 8:30am - 9:30am
Location: Santa Clara Ballroom

Rheingold is the author of Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, which asserts that "Smart mobs emerge when communication and computing technologies amplify human talents for cooperation. The impacts of smart mob technology already appear to be both beneficial and destructive." Rheingold discusses both the positive and negative aspects of smart mobs in his keynote address.

Notes Rheingold, "I couldn't help noticing that so many people on the streets of Tokyo in early 2000 were looking at their telephones instead of listening to them. A couple months later, I was sitting at an outdoor cafe on the Esplanade in Helsinki when three teenagers walked by and encountered two older adults. Like all Finns, they carried their telephones in their hands and glanced at them from time to time. I didn't know what the five of them were talking about -- it was in Finnish. I noticed one of the teenagers glance at his phone, smile, then show his phone to his two peers -- but not to the two older adults!

"I assume that most of the audience will have read my book, or know about it in some detail, so I'm going to depart from my usual talk and push further into the territory of collective action. My book makes the case that the power of communication and computation-enabled collective action characterized by the growth of the Web, Napster, SETI@home, blogging, mobile messaging, virtual communities is a general paradigm that applies to technologies that combine computation, wireless communication, and human social networks--perhaps lubricated by reputation systems and amplified by p2p methodologies. We've seen the initial conflicts over the future of innovation in legislative and regulatory attempts to mandate machine-instantiated trusted computin and,DRM, compromise of the Net's end-to-end architecture, throttling or prohibition of p2p activities. What do we now know that I didn't know when I wrote the book, about the power of smart mob technolgies, and its technical, social, and political vulnerabilities?

"I hope attendees are provoked to think about, talk about, and better understand the convergence and evolution of the technologies they are working with in a broader social and political perspective."

Rheingold's prediction for the future of technology? "Maybe by the time the conference happens, a prediction I made earlier in January will have come true, or maybe it will still be a prediction: Jerry Falwell or Charlton Heston--some leader of a large lobbying interest group--will send out volleys of text messages to the mobile telephones of constituents, with one-click instructions to call their Senators, staged temporally to flood switchboards for days before votes.

"I'm concerned about the rate at which the disruptive technology of mobile peer to peer communication technology is infiltrating the electoral process all over the world:
Kenya elections
Korean elections
Karl Rove and US elections
Hungarian elections"

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