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Roundtable #2 - The Crowd | Digital Nation | FRONTLINE | PBS
digital nation - life on the virtual frontier

Roundtable #2: THE CROWD

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Douglas Rushkoff
Douglas Rushkoff

Welcome to the PBS Digital Nation Roundtable: The Crowd.

Our Roundtable participants are:


danah boyd - Social Media Researcher, Microsoft Research; Fellow, Berkman Center of Internet and Society, co-author, Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out. http://danah.org

Amy Bruckman - Associate Professor, Electronic Learning Communities, Georgia Institute of Technology http://www.cc.gatech.edu/elc/index.shtml

Nicholas Carr - author, The Big Switch and the forthcoming The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains . http://roughtype.com

Kevin Kelly - Senior Maverick, Wired magazine. Author, Out of Control, and What Technology Wants - coming in October http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/

Mark Pesce - co-inventor of VRML, founder, FutureSt social web consultancy, author, Share This Book (upcoming) http://www.sharethiscourse.org/

Clay Shirky - NYU Interactive Telecommunications Programm, author Here Comes Everybody http://www.shirky.com/

RU Sirius - co-founder, Mondo2000, Editor, H+ magazine http://www.hplusmagazine.com/

Sherry Turkle - Director, MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, author, The Second Self, Simulations and Its Discontents, and Alone Together (forthcoming) http://web.mit.edu/sturkle/www/techself/

Jimmy Wales - Co-founder, Wikipedia. Trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation. http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Home

and Douglas Rushkoff - PBS Digital Nation moderator. http://rushkoff.com


This month, we'll be discussing "the crowd" - particularly the way group activity, creativity, and awareness are both enhanced and exacerbated by our digital networks. We do not need to reach conclusions or even consensus about the impact of technology on our collective fate (or the fate of collectives). We are less concerned with finding definitive answers than asking the right kinds of questions, reframing our interrogations in new and informative ways, learning from one another's perspectives, and seeing how the public participants respond to and inform our conversation.

We'll be approaching one aspect of the crowd over each of the four weeks of the Roundtable - and then, if it can be arranged, some portion of our group may be meeting for a live, concluding discussion at the end of month.

Open Source and Crowdsourcing.
What are the values implicit in both collaborative open source activities and "crowd-sourced" activities on behalf of a corporation or organization? Has the open source movement created new forms, or just copies of old ones? What are the possibilities, here, for new cultural and economic institutions, and how might they be improvements on the status quo?

The Mob.
What are the, perhaps, unintended effects unleashed by our connectedness? Does anonymity plus connectivity always equal misbehavior and cruelty? How are we to explain some of the collective anger that seems to be unleashed online - and is it a result of the same anger characterizing much of our society's discourse, or is it the cause?

Whither the Individual?
As we join groups and social networks from affinity sites to Facebook, are we extending and expanding identities, or increasingly conforming to the cookie-cutter profiles demanded of these interfaces? Is the loss of "personal space" and "reflection" so many users complain of merely the necessary surrender of "ego" as we learn to participate as members of a more evolved "collective organism" of "hyper-people?"

Folksonomy and the Folks.
Everybody is, indeed, here now - but should everyone be here? Does the rise of the amateur lead to an unnecessary devaluation of the professional? Do collective online activities promote a new form of participatory democracy and the development of new and accurate folksonomies, or rather to they lead people to overestimate the value of their unconsidered posts and opinions? Do representative democracy, academic disciplines and other seemingly elitist artifacts fall by the wayside?

And so we begin with Open Source and Crowdsourcing.

posted February 2, 2010

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