Harringay online

Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Just acquired myself a copy of Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody and started looking through the first few chapters. (Shirky is a professor at NYU and writes, teaches and consults on the social and economic effects of the internet).

He has this to say:

Our social tools are not an improvement to modern society; they are a challenge to it. New technology makes new things possible; put another way, when new technology appears, previously impossible things start occuring. If enough of those impossible things are important and happen in a bundle, the change becomes a revolution.

The hallmark of a revolution is that the goals of the revolutionaries cannot be contained by the institutional structure of existing society.


Welcome to the revolution. Bienvenue, Welkom.

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Flash mobbing at one of the bookies?? Poised over the buttons of the fixed odds betting machine? Licking the pencils as we pore over the 2.15 at Doncaster?

Or is it something you do with friends?
bookies is a good idea that would be quite funny although we might frighten them a bit. What else? mobb rubbish collection? We could form a mob/queue outside one of the bottle banks and do some recycling? Anyone got any other ideas? something simple, harmless, quick and perhaps draws attention to local issues.
Flash litter pick dressed as 70s dolly birds/boys (think 'Man about the House'

)...I've mentioned this before, not that I'm obsessed.
yes I'm all for getting the wedges and the boob tube out at any opportunity. Turning up a the bottle bank at a certain time with a bottle to recycle would be a lot simpler and do-able for most people, less funny though. I suppose theres nothing to stop people dressing up if they want to. What else could we do?
Oooh! Can I be Yootha Joyce.
On Hugh's recommendation in the summer, I bought Clay Shirkey's book Here Comes Everybody. And have been beating the drum for it ever since. The paperback comes out in February - order it from the Big Green Bookshop. Till then, you can see a video talk from Prof Shirky on YouTube. In fact several - though I suggest this one.

I'm not saying he's the last word; there are holes in Shirky's analysis. For example, he tends to think of social networking serving the interests of the 'good guys'; and greater democracy and transparency. I don't think he anticipated how quickly the Murdoch Empire, the Daily Mail etc would learn how to colonise and harness the new media.

But if anyone has come across a writer with a better grip of the impact of the Internet on social groups and community organising, please let us all know.
I've been meaning to add a link to another talk by Clay Shirky on TED. He covers some of the same ground, but extends the ideas further. One of his insights is particularly useful - including for understanding the impact of HarringayOnline.

Shirky gives three models of communication 'to the many'.
Stage 1 : Communication one-to-many when a central source – e.g. TV Stations, newspapers, local councils – send their 'message' or 'target' individuals in 'the audience'.
Stage 2 : Adds communication many-to-one. Individuals in the audience can respond to the Centre. “The audience can talk back” (Clay Shirky)
Stage 3 : Crucially, this adds communication many-to-many. As Shirky puts it, the audience are no longer disconnected but can talk directly to one another.”

In my view at least two big pieces are missing from Shirky’s model. One is the power of large organisations – how far they will continue to exercise control – even if not as explicitly as the Chinese Government. A second more complex question is the place of professional knowledge.

However, his basic insight seems accurate. And of course HarringayOnline is part of Stage 3. With the threads about Certificates of Lawfulness an excellent example of how this can operate to bring real change for the better.

A new example on Hol is cyclists who are ‘talking’ to one another about a stretch of Green Lanes. They've pooled their knowledge to identify a group of problems – potholes and poor street-lighting - which were reported but not effectively tackled by Hackney Council.

Incidentally this second example shows how the website Fix-My-Street was obsolescent even before its launch. Using Shirky’s model we can see that it belongs to Stage 2. Unsurprisingly bureaucrats liked it because it looked like ‘empowerment’, while keeping control with the powers-that-be.

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