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Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution [Paperback]

Howard Rheingold
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 16 2003 0738208612 978-0738208619 Reprint
Smart Mobs takes us on a journey around the world for a preview of the next techno-cultural shift. The coming wave, says Rheingold, is the result of super-efficient mobile communications-cellular phones, wireless-paging, and Internet-access devices-that will allow us to connect with anyone, anytime, anywhere.Rheingold offers a penetrating perspective on the new convergence of pop culture, cutting-edge technology, and social activism. He also reminds us that the real impact of mobile communications will come not from the technology itself but from how people use it, resist it, and adapt to it.

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Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution + Mobile and Wireless Communications: An Introduction
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The title of this book is a mild pun. People are using smart "mobs" (rhymes with "robes") to become smart "mobs" (rhymes with "robs"), meaning, sophisticated mobile Internet access is allowing people who don't know each other to act in concert. In this timely if at times overenthusiastic survey of wireless communication devices, Rheingold (The Virtual Community) conveys how cell phones, pagers and PDAs are shaping modern culture. He interviewed dozens of people around the world who work and play with these technologies to see how this revolution is manifesting, and his findings are stirring. The concept has caught on among young Japanese, where cliques of teenagers hang out together all day, despite being in different places, by sending and receiving hundreds of iconic text transmissions on their iMode telephones. And demonstrators in Seattle and Manila relied on wireless telephones to coordinate their actions and evade barricades. In major cities, Rheingold says, techno-hipsters can congregate in "WiFi" areas that interact with their wireless devices to let them participate in a virtual social scene. In one amusing example, he tells of upscale prostitutes who can enter their services and prices into their mobile phones, allowing customers to discreetly determine if anyone nearby is selling what they want to buy (a Japanese company, Lovegety, has already adapted this idea to dating). This study of the potential of mobile, always on, fast Internet access nicely serves as a travelogue to the future, showing the possibilities and dangers of communications innovation.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Mobile, wireless, Net-connected devices are now being hawked by the computer and telecom industries, prompting technology author Rheingold to take stock of the incipient revolution. Glimpsing the future in vignettes of wireless users in Helsinki and Tokyo, Rheingold primarily explores the sociology that might characterize a world of "ad-hocracy," in which people cluster temporarily around information of mutual interest. Rheingold describes how consumerism might change when pedestrians, as their mobiles detect stores and restaurants, patch into electronic gossip about an establishment. The location-detection feature of these devices will inevitably breach privacy, which informs Rheingold's somewhat skeptical stance toward this brave new world, and contrasts with the enthusiasm of certain computer scientists he interviews, such as Microsoft's promoter of a wireless urban space pervasively connected to the Internet. The cyber-savvy and socially aware will be interested and undoubtedly concerned by Rheingold's informed report. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Remote Control To The World April 7 2004
How many of you recall that EF Hutton commercial that started off by saying, "When EF Hutton talks, people listen". The same thought can be applied to Howard Rheingold.
Rheingold is veteran technology watcher and well-publised futurist. He has identified yet another transformative technology. In 'Smart Mobs' he describes in vivid detail how large, geographically dispersed groups connected only by thin threads of communications techology, such as text messaging, e-mail, cell phones, two-way pagers, and web sites, can draw together in the blink of an eye, groups of people together for a collective cause.
From various parts of the world, Rheingold, has gathered stories about engineers and inventors of all sorts, working feverishly to create ever-smaller and more powerful devices that contribute to this new paradigm.
In this book,Rheingold points out examples of Smart Mobs such as the swarms of demonstrators who used mobile phones, Web sites, laptops and handheld computers to coordinate their protests against the World Trade Organization in November of 1999.
Rheingold shows a concern of smart mobs other than describing the weath of new communications technology that is available and coming. He is also concerned about the social, political, economic, environmental and even genetic consequences of the ever-expanding and more intrusive plethora of multidirectional communications technology.
This book is a must read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Smart Mobs, Smart Social Transformation Nov. 28 2003
Smart Mobs are dynamic groups of people who can act together cooperatively even if they are complete strangers. Their communication is facilitated by a new wave of wireless, mobile, portable computing devices. Howard Rheingold provokes us to foresee a future where people spontaneously interact and exchange ideas in a manner that will transform how we work, play, trade, govern, and create.
Rheingold cogently explores examples of what he refers to as a "social tsunami". Special attention is given to mobile telephones which are transforming how youth exercise their social power. Teenage "thumb tribes" have developed new ways of communicating using SMS text messaging in Tokyo and Helsinki. Spontaneous groups coordinated by SMS messages had a more serious impact in the Philippines in January of 2001 when groups of protestors responding to SMS messages managed to play a primary role in overthrowing then President Joseph Estrada.
Much attention is also given to networked PC's and how supercomputers, open source software and the mobile internet are facilitating social networking. Rheingold adroitly explains how these tools can be both weapons of social control and resistance.
Perhaps the most provocative ideas revolve around the fact that we now have access to information about each other as never before. He explores privacy and trust issues and appears particularly concerned with surveillance web-sites, software and the electronic "bread crumb" trails that we are unaware we are leaving.
Overall, Rheingold expertly weaves his experiences, interviews with experts and solid research to elucidate his interest in how human behavior will change as a result of the latest technological advances.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Very cool technology, very uninspired prose Aug. 30 2003
In Smart Mobs, Howard Rheingold catalogues the technologies that are converging to change the way we live: mobile communications, social networks, distributed processing and pervasive computing. He does a good job of identifying and explaining these and predicting what it will mean when they get together. This makes for an interesting read, but I'm afraid I still found the book maddening.
The worst thing is that a whole half the book is in quotes (or worse, block quotes) from other people and their dissertations or promotional materials. This makes the book lack a singular voice and is very disconcerting. Rheingold not only attributes everything to a fault, he also has the bad habit of explaining where he interviewed each person, what they ate, what funny thing the interviewee had in their office. This makes for ponderous, stalling prose that is painful to read.
He also makes the Lessig-inspired mistake of dividing the world into two camps: the government and big media are lumped on one side, and heroic no-property anarchists are placed in the other. He's right to point out that big media's vested interests are a creature of government, but he doesn't get that that really isn't capitalism. A true market is the ultimate form of the mediated cooperation he pines for.
If you are a techno-cultural geek, you have to read this book. But take it with a grain of salt, and brace yourself for plenty of minutiae.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The future of games April 2 2003
Rheingold writes from the perspective of the enthusiast. He is still trying to keep up with the kids and shares their distain for authority. I wonder if Howard ever met an anarchist he didn't like.
So, we get to 'run with the pack' for a while. It seems the kids are constructing a society of self-organizing, ad-hoc networks founded on wearable wireless computers, mediated by privacy protection algorithms. Their networks are always on and location aware. The computer is mutating into a universal remote-control wand and the purpose is having fun.
If it's not fun, the kids don't do it. The kids find their friends via the internet, keep in touch via cell phones and turn the city into a game board with GPS. It is all amazing and new.
What does it mean? It means more "wealth, knowledge and civil society". There will be new forms of "sex, commerce, entertainment and conflict." The danger comes from the adult crowd, the 'big brother' bureaucracies that will want to redirect all this creativity into a straight-jacket.
It seems the decision we have to make involves our use of the 'commons', or in modern parlance, the 'internet'. Will we allow the 'free riders' to sink the ship? Will we allow the fence builders to steal our playground?
To engage in the debate, Rheingold does a good job of teaching enough chaos theory to make sense of the issues. You might get tired of him invoking the prisoner's dilemma and 'swarm intelligence', but they are interesting ideas. It's a bit thin, but the book is rushing through so many gadgets, inventors and theories that I didn't mind.
Personally, I'm not sure there is anything 'new' to be invented about sex and entertainment. The most important exploration is the discovery of self.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Keen on Smart Mobs
As one who needed a basic primer on various areas of technology--past, present, and future--and their implications for the human being, I found "Smart Mobs" to be both... Read more
Published on April 6 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars smart mobs and trends
This is a very thought-provoking book and the evidence is all around us, from teens IM'ing each other to the current craze of "random mobs" where people use their cell phones to... Read more
Published on Oct. 9 2003 by Mike
5.0 out of 5 stars Politics au Naturel gives it four Plumeria blossoms
Having read the first book by Howard, and finding this on his site, we had to have it, since an important part of our online cybersyndicated toungue-in-cheek Political CALMintery... Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2003 by Patrick Michaels
5.0 out of 5 stars Here it Comes
By reading this review you're participating in smart mob technology. Congratulations.
I try to stay abreast of science and media technologies, but occasionally a book comes... Read more
Published on June 7 2003 by bhangonoveloctresidom
5.0 out of 5 stars Public Library Alert
There are few books that fulfill their promise to describe tomorrow. This is one of them. The "texting tribes" ride the same currents as our "post-literate"... Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2003 by Robert E Watson
5.0 out of 5 stars wearable cooperation and texting swarms
Rheingold believes that "what we understand about the future of smart mobs, and how we talk about that future, holds the power to influence that future. Read more
Published on Dec 17 2002 by William Benzon
5.0 out of 5 stars Ever There; Ever On
Smart Mobs is a book about ubiquitous wireless communication. A world where your clothing, your walls, your vehicle, your streets, your dust are made of materials in which... Read more
Published on Dec 16 2002 by "gczerepak"
5.0 out of 5 stars Distributing the Future
Reading this book reminds me of the line attributed to William Gibson: "The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet. Read more
Published on Dec 14 2002 by Arnold Kling
4.0 out of 5 stars View for the near future.
Mr. Rheingold is a well know scientist that seems to write a book every two years on the next generation of technology. Read more
Published on Dec 12 2002 by M. Karakus
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