Clay Shirky and Collective Action

Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies – it happens when society adopts new behaviors.

Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody

This statement by Clay Shirky makes me feel good about the world and how we can use new technologies for collective action and to bring about change.  I find Clay Shirky’s writing and talks are just so accessible.   If you are interested in social media I recommend watching this TED video with Shirky introduced to our class by Dr. Kate Milberry.  It can be found at .  If you like what he has to say in the video, then I recommend reading his book, Here Comes Everybody.  It’s an easy, entertaining and informative read.  Shirky writing reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell, one of my favorite authors.

One of our 2012 MACT cohort was tasked with presenting Shirky’s chapter 6 (Collective Action and Institutional Challenges) to the class.  Greg McIntyre’s video illustrates how new tools can assist collective action .

In the same chapter, Shirky also writes that social tools remove the obstacles to collective action.  Have you ever signed an online petition?  Have you read about Arab Springs or Occupy?  Last year a friend of mine used social media (and other tools) to help find her son who was missing.  Friends, friends of friends, other mothers, the general public, all came together to search for him and to help support the family.  It all unfolded in a very short period of time.  Despite the tragic ending (the young man had taken his own life) what the story demonstrated to me was the power of collective action.

The world feels a lot smaller today than when I was growing up.  New technologies allow information to be shared quickly so we can respond faster and take action when required.  I know I feel better informed about many world issues by reading posts along with shared links from many of my friends.  As a result of the recent stories that came out online after the fire in the garment factory in Bangladesh, my 14 year old daughter and her friends have decided to boycott the clothing line Joe Fresh and have been discussing it in social media.  This isn’t what I was doing when I was 14.  Her behaviour makes me feel pretty good about the world.


About Ava K

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This entry was posted in collective action, Comm506, MACT, universityofalberta and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Clay Shirky and Collective Action

  1. Kirsten B says:

    Great post, Ava. I agree that Shirky offers a refreshing and optimistic view of the power of collective action. It’s reassuring to know that kids like your daughter are using the Internet to engage with the world in such a meaningful way. Thanks for sharing.

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