In “Here Comes Everybody”, when Clay Shirky states “Most of the barriers to group action have collapsed, and without those barriers, we are free to explore new ways of gathering together and getting things done,” he is talking about the physical distance barriers that keep us from getting together (22). With new media we are able to ignore those barriers and collaborate with one another to accomplish things by communication and participation that we could not before.
In “The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis”, Marshal McLuhan suggests that “Any invention or technology is an extension or self-amputation of our physical bodies” (72). Through new media we can literally “self-amputate” our selves from our bodies and “be” in many places at once. In Shirky’s Epliogue he discusses an earthquake in China and how news of it got out very quickly not through news sources but through social media and states “As always, social tools don’t create new motivations so much as amplify existing ones” (294). The desire to communicate has always been there, but new media helps us to communicate faster and with more people than ever, but the key is participation.
If no one or very few people are participating, as new media allows for, then little to nothing will be accomplished. If no one had participated in communicating the news of the earthquake it could have taken a much longer time for that news to get out. As Shirky states, “In 1976, by contrast, it took the Chinese government several months to admit that a quake of similarly devastating magnitude had even happened” (295).
In “Theater of the Oppressed” Agusto Boal states “The spectator is encouraged to intervene in the action, abandoning his condition of object and assuming fully the role of subject” (108). Boal is talking about theater rather than new media, but the same theme applies to the real world. In Boal’s theater, the audience is just objects watching the show unfold however it is scripted to happen until the spectators can intervene and change the outcome of the show. Until we participate through new media, we are just spectators and objects in the show of the world letting things happen however they happen. However, when we do participate through new media we are able to change the outcome of what is going on in the world.
In order for participation to occur, as Shirky says, all new media “relies on a successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users” (260). The desire to participate and communicate is already there, but the platform through which it happens must contain all of these things. The promise of a medium gives the users a reason to participate. An effective tool is the platform through which the users will participate. And the bargain is what sets the rules. While Shirky says “people underestimate the value of the freedom being extended to everyone” (271), he also reminds us that “no effort at creating group value can be successful without some form of governance” (283). Freedom in participation is very important but in order for it to succeed there must at least be some kind of guidelines for the users to follow.
Shirky tells us that there are two types of participation: sharing and collaboration. Sharing is useful, but cannot accomplish near as much as collaboration can, as collaboration requires a more complex bargain. “Bargains for sharing can be quite simple while the bargains that have to be worked out for collaboration or collective action are necessarily more complex, because the frequency, complexity and duration of user interaction are higher” (275). Sharing as participation is nothing more than sharing. Through platforms like Instagram, people can share photos and videos, but it does not accomplish much besides letting other people view content. However, with things like open source software that require people to collaborate with one another can accomplish a much higher goal that can potentially change the world.