When Clay Shirky arrived in the UK in Feb 2008 to promote his book, Here Comes Everybody, he drew a great deal of interest – nearly all favourable. How could anyone argue with such ‘motherhood and apple pie’ concepts as empowerment, collaboration and improved communication?
Of course, like the small print on a financial services poster, there’s an underlying message running through his thesis –- social change can be good or bad (the value of your investment can go down as well as up).
We all like to think that the new social media tools will help us in a positive way, but then, we never know what rogue operators may lurk around the corner, ready to hijack our new tool-kit for selfish, destructive ends.
For all the talk of universal moral codes, it seems there’s always someone who’s prepared to abuse trust and delight in the chaos that results (Heath Ledger’s Joker, anyone?)
One point made by Nicolas Carr in The Big Switch really resonated with me: namely that, when faced by something it doesn’t understand, human nature tends to plump for an overly optimistic view (it’s easier to imagine warm, fuzzy outcomes than harsh brutal ones).
Social media – villain or saviour? What do you think?
I’m off to design a Cosmo/ FHM -style quiz for readers to find out. Watch this space.