The WELL: Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody
I’ve actually come to regret the “organizing without organizations”
line a bit.
The phrase comes from an observation in the book that we use
variations on the same word to describe the state of being arranged or
coordinated (organized), and as a label for well-structured groups
(organizations). As a result, when we see organization in the world, we
often assume that there is an organization at work. And the changes
I’m pointing to are all the ways that is becoming less true.
To take a recent example, when the Western press covered the upset in
the Chinese blogosphere about the Olympic torch protests, they covered
it as if the synchronization of the bloggers concerns must have been
orchestrated by the Chinese government. What they seemed unable (or
unwilling) to investigate was whether that synchronization was organic
— whether there was organization without there being *an* organization
responsible, even though assuming that the bloggers actually feel that
way, and are synchronizing with one another, is the more parsimonious
So the basic observation is that order can arise without there being a
group of people paid to put things in order, and we’re seeing this in
things like Meetup groups, Flickr and delicious tags, where sharing
precedes community formation rather than following it, and so on.
The one thing I’ve reconsidered (too late, alas) is the way that
‘organizing without organizations’ sounds like on of those “…and the
State will wither away and we’ll all live in a post-hierarchical
paradise’ arguments. I’m so far from believing that that I didn’t even
see the resonance til I started fielding questions from people who had
read the title but not the book.