Christian Long

James Surowiecki: The Turning Point for Social Media

In TED Talks on May 10, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Reflection by AMBER W.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

James Surowiecki:  The Turning Point for Social Media

Through his TED talk, James Surowiecki explores the world of blogging and the impact society has on the development of blogging today.

Taking his audience through the start of a tsumani to the internet and blogging world of news, the tsunami story was transformed while the news and everything else related to this tsunami spread in a matter of days.

“What became very clear was that within a few days the outpouring of information was immense, and we got a complete and powerful picture of what had happened in a way that we never had been able to get before. And what you had was a group of essentially unorganized, unconnected writers, video bloggers, et cetera, who were able to come up with a collective portrait of a disaster that gave us a much better sense of what it was like to actually be there than the mainstream media could give us.”

Being a teenager, I especially liked the topic of blogging but also the simplicity of the talk. This TED talk was entertaining and easy to listen to, making me truly want to listen to everything James Surowiecki had to offer and to explore some of the concepts and opinions he explained throughout his talk. Focusing on the three following questions, James Surowiecki enlightened his audience on the positive and negative effects on blogging.

What does it (blogging) tell us about our ideas, about what motivate people to do things?

Do blogs genuinely have the possibility of accessing a kind of collective intelligence that has previously remained, for the most part, untapped?

What are the potential problems, or the sort of dark side of blogs as we know them?

Relating to the first question, Why do people blog? When people spend hours on the Internet individually and collectively posting so many ideas and thoughts a day, what purpose is their behind any of this? Our society is based on money and although some may disagree, this is what drives many people to become successful in life because with money brings status. Yet, the Internet offers people a different type of status and without the involvement of monetary gains.

“…But instead, what we’re finding on the Internet — and one of the great geniuses of it — is that people have found a way to work together without any money involved at all. They have come up with, in a sense, a sort of different method for organizing activity. ”

Everything changes on the internet. People are essentially hidden behind a screen and allowed to be anything they want, express their views however they want. Collectively, this can be a succcessful way for people to communicate ideas which is what James brings up in his following question. Not everyone is comfortable enough around others, especially people they don’t know, in person. The connections the internet brings is incredible. People who would never speak a word to each other coexist in this world the internet creates. Blogs bring together people and in the end, they genuinely do access collective intelligence. If the internet and blogs didn’t do this, the world wouldn’t be as connected as it is today.

Lastly, not everything is perfect. James Surowiecki believes collective intelligence can only exist with independent thinking. Yet, don’t people come together in blogs as individual thinkers first? It is the aftermath of continuous blogging that can impact an individual or a group. When the internet starts to shape views then the trouble starts.


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