As social media dominates the next century, it continually undermines something that happened 300 million years ago. Pangaea, our planet’s former super-continent, broke apart and created divides that separated people until travel finally intervened. Today, physical barriers no longer obstruct communication, ideation, or galvanization. While people may still be far from one another physically, the influence that social media continues to garner worldwide is nearly Pangaea-like.
In Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody, the notion of connecting people behind a cause is not portrayed as novel but powerful. His account of Evan Guttman’s attempt to retrieve his friend’s stolen cell phone by publicly blogging the ordeal conveyed that human emotion and mass participation had a direct influence on government bureaucracy. Readers of Guttman’s blog rallied behind a cause that they connected with and lent their voice (and outrage) to solving a problem.
Because social media is fueled by technology, there are Orwellian fears that it will increase distance between people. While Nicholas Carr makes a strong argument that social media causes more distracted people, the opportunities for game-changing collaboration and open source projects outweigh having harried attention spans (in my opinion).
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (my employer) open sources its side projects and research related to its Pediatric Cancer Genome Project. St. Jude believes that the more access scientists have to information related to anomalies in the genetic code (that lead to cancer), the better. It allows researchers across the globe that have a vested interest to request access and explore the data. Why? Because children could be ultimately be helped by others with a fresh set of eyes, other resources, and different ways of thinking.
That harkens to Shirky’s point, and others. People have already converged. Now, we’re in the next phase of witnessing results, actions, and progress.
Other articles of interest from this week: