Response to Shirky’s “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone”

Today’s post is on an excerpt from Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. This chapter, “Ch1:  It Takes a Village to Find a Phone,” touches on the power of a group effort and how new technologies are changing and/or expanding our social groups. Shirky describes Evan’s story of retrieving his friend’s cell phone by creating a website and gaining enough attention to get the NYPD involved.

Ivanna forgot her phone on a cab and it eventually found its way to Sasha. Ivanna asked her friend Evan to put out a flyer for her lost phone but ended just buying a new $300 cellphone. Ivanna was able to figure out Sasha had her cellphone because pictures and emails were saved on the phone company servers that were transferred to Ivanna’s new phone. When Evan and Ivanna asked Sasha to return the cell phone she said no. Jerk. But Evan was persistent and soon after he created a webpage to make this story public and he created an “army” to side with him. The story ends Spoiler Alert with Sasha getting arrested, Ivanna getting her phone back, and Evan getting freelance PR work.

Now we can discuss the rights and wrongs, fairness and unfairness but this chapter is more about how Evan was able to gain so much attention for this situation, and with a “former audience,” (people who react to, participate in, and even alter a story as it is unfolding.) he was able to get justice. This story definitely reflects this quote that Shirky included

“Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.” – Archimedes

Evan’s place was the webpage and his lever were his social connections and later a big audience that attracted the media.

Another interesting point Shirky makes is without our sociability new technology would just be new technology. This is why I felt the need to summarize the the cellphone story in this post. The story itself connects us. Many of have experienced losing a cellphone or other expensive item. Without a story this compelling Evan may not have gotten the same amount of attention using the same web tools. But also Evan would not have gotten the same attention for this story without the tools we have today. We are able to increase sharing and reach the people who are interested and want to get involved. What I mean is a newspaper only reaches so many people. Having a story on the internet can reach a very large audience. People on the internet are searching, tagging, reposting content that relates to them and the internet has made it easier for people to connect with those who have similar interests.