Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What's Old is New Again

I've been awfully quiet on this space these past couple of months for a variety of reasons, but this quote (that I stole from Steve LeVine and am citing as such) from Craig Newmark, of Craigslist renown, took me aback:
By the end of this decade, power and influence will shift largely to those people with the best reputations and trust networks, from people with money and nominal power. That is, peer networks will confer legitimacy on people emerging from the grassroots.

Is it just me, or is Newmark describing, in a loose sense, the idea of qawm? I'm skeptical of pre-Zahir Shah Afghanistan being the model for a sort of future network that can form the basis of a state. And, in my vastly unscientific opinion, I think that a straw poll of Kyrgyz and Kyrgyzstanis wouldn't lead to anyone preferring to live in an Afghanistan-esque situation.

I agree with most of the other writers on this site, I think, when I say that Twitter et al have done little more than speed up unrest that would be happening besides. It says a lot that Otunbayeva is the interim leader, not some random cadre of students or someone equally unknown. There is more to ruling a state, or even disseminating information, then reputation and trust. "Nominal Power" is still, and will be still, plenty powerful.

I'm awfully optimistic about the power of crowds. And I think that the more access they have to cheap technology. Like, say, building real houses and infrastructure instead of slums out of barbed wire and sandbags. Real change off of the internet has to occur as well, and to take that sort of change on requires Newmark's nominal power. I'm not sure that has happened, or has the chance to happen, quite yet.


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