The term “Smart Mob” alludes to the 2003 best-selling technology book by Howard Rheingold, titled Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.
An Amazon blurb about the book heralds “super-efficient mobile communications-cellular phones, wireless-paging, and Internet-access devices-that will allow us to connect with anyone, anytime, anywhere” for the purpose of social activism.
You can read a summary of his prophecy at this link, which notes:
Some mobile telephones are already equipped with location-detection devices and digital cameras. Some inexpensive mobile devices already read barcodes and send and receive messages to radio-frequency identity tags. Some furnish wireless, always-on Internet connections. Large numbers of people in industrial nations will soon have a device with them most of the time that will enable them to link objects, places and people to online content and processes. Point your device at a street sign, announce where you want to go, and follow the animated map beamed to the box in your palm. …
Of course, in 2017, all of that is common knowledge.
Rheingold documents how mobile technology amassed anti WTO protests in 1999 in Seattle and elsewhere across the globe, resulting in positive social change.
The first edition of Interpersonal Divide, published one year after Rheingold’s book, saw dangers in such use, from the loss of privacy to the dissemination of false messages whose only aim was to foment dissent for the sake of some spurious political motive.
And that motive was in full display this week during Senate hearings on Facebook, Twitter and Google concerning Russian interference in U.S. elections.
A WIRED article on the hearings cited two Facebook advertisements from Russian operatives that sparked conflict on Houston streets “by drawing two groups of protesters to fake ‘rallies’ at the same place and time.” One “smart mob” post solicited a crowd to protest the “Islamization of Texas.” A second phony post promoted an event to save “Islamic knowledge.”
The utopian view of Rheingold’s social activist “Smart Mob” has devolved into a dystopian Russian mob that outsmarted Americans of opposite political views.
Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine delves into the phenomenon. In a chapter titled, “A World Without Why,” readers discover the true nature of technology, which tells us how, when, where, what and to whom something happened.
Without objective news reporting, we will never know why something happened.
Interpersonal Divide also emphasizes our responsibility to use technology wisely; otherwise, technology will use us.
The Russians counted on both traits to undermine our common bonds as citizens and residents in real place and time.
Ask yourself: What would you rather read on Facebook? A fake post that affirms your worst suspicions of Americans who hold opposite political views … or real news that dispels those suspicions.
Too often, we opt for the fake news. That’s the problem. Each of us has to be part of the solution.
Interpersonal Divide explains how.