Social Media, Web 2.0, Collaboration, and Social Change

By Scot Evans – June 22, 2009
OfflineScot Evans

In my ongoing effort to engage SCRA members in a dialogue about the power of social networking tools and web 2.0 thinking, I offer two provocative videos from Clay Shirky.

In multiple contexts at last week's Biennial, I had discussions with people about the power of social media and web 2.0 to faciliate engagement and social change. I recommended sociologist Clay Shirky's book, Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations to at least a dozen people, beause I think he has something really important to say to those of us who are looking for innovative and creative ways to collaborate with colleagues and community for positive social change. Shirky has a strong message for those who believe that social networking ( Facebook, Twitter, etc) tools and sites are a waste of time: the social web has changed everything.  Progressive-minded folks who believe in the power of collaboration to make change should not ignore these tools.

While I appreciate all of the hard work by organizers of the World Cafe at the Biennial and effort by participants to envision new ideas for SCRA's role in this new economic and historical context, ideas generated were largely (not all) rehashed and reworded ideas from Biennials gone by. From my perspective, we're trying to create innovative solutions using tools in our exisiting toolbox, instead of looking for a new toolbox. In this regard,I think some of Shirky's ideas can be very useful. As a researcher interested in the role of organizations in community, Shirky's thoughts about new forms of collaboration without traditional organizations are particularly provacative.

I've inlcuded below two Shirky videos from The frist one is from 2005 where Clay Shirky shows how closed groups and companies will give way to looser networks where small contributors have big roles and fluid cooperation replaces rigid planning. For me, this talk has tremendous implications for how we think about community organizations and networks for change. Are our exisiting models of community collaboration and organizing outdated? How can we use these tools for deeper collaboration and social change in communities?

The second video was filmed in May before news from Iran started streaming to the world. Clay Shirky shows how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news, bypassing censors (however briefly). The end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics.

So, have a look at these videos and get the book if these ideas excite you. Use the comment feature below to react to these ideas, let me know how you are using these tools, and let's think hard together about how SCRA can use this website, with all its social netorking capacity, and other tools is useful ways.

Clay Shirky on institutions vs. collaboration

Clay Shirky: How Twitter can make history


About the author

Scot Evans

Assistant Professor, Educational and Psychological StudiesUniversity of Miami

Dr. Evans joined the EPS faculty at the University of Miami in August, 2008. He received his Ph.D. in Community Research and Action at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in 2005. He has a…


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June 22, 2009
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Scot Evans

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