“Revolutions happen when society adopts new behaviors.” – Clay Shirky
“Us Now” is a British video and website about how people come to each other on the Internet from a place a trust. Ostensibly, people online are more willing to collaborate, become self-organizing, develop communities easily, volunteer more information and time, are more productive and startlingly innovative. The film’s main premise is that, if given the option, online life brings out the best in people. It’s relatively revolutionary premise is that by coming to this world from a position of trust, individuals can “game the system.”
The film uses several real-life examples:
- The Ebbfleet United football team is owned by 35,000 fans who belong to My Football Club. Fans get to, among other things, select the starting lineup.
- Couchsurfing.org is an organization that helps individuals visit new lands and meet new people by staying on each others’ couches. It operates primarily by onsite and remote volunteers and has a very small staff.
- Zopa.com is a for-profit company that allows peer-to-peer or social lending through an online marketplace. Lendees feel closer to the community.
- NetMums.com is an online network of parents who communicate with each other online about child and mother-related topics.
- Linux is open-source operating software used in thousands of different businesses because of its sophistication and flexibility. It has become successful because it has thousands of volunteer developers.
- Slice the pie connects fans, promoters and credible bands outside of the corporate music industry.
- Green Party, Canada created it’s program and policies through a wiki.
Lots of wonderful questions and points are raised in this video about the effect of the Internet on community and organizations:
- What makes an organization – is it the employees, the owners, or is it the customers and users?
- What does all this empowerment and openness mean in the role of government? Citizens probably now expect to be able to voice their opinion, have it be heard and be included. Citizens will expect real subsequent action to be taken by their representatives. Can government really become “unbundled” from the status quo of broadcasting to their constituents and be more open?
- Will major institutions be threatened by the shift of power from a traditional top-down approach to one that is out of their control? Will they be able to adjust and see it as an opportunity?
- Will companies ultimately clean up their act because of the power of transparency?
However, the video does not really go into WHY people are ostensibly more trusting or share-y online. Is it because it’s fun, or intellectually stimulating, or appeals to our inherent need for community?
In addition, Us Now seems a little bit overly optimistic about how altruistic everyone is. For example, what happens with an individual lendee who shirks repayment of his/her loans? What if something bad happens to a visitor by a couch-host or visa versa? Do either of these situations erode the trust?
The video includes great interviews and quotes from Clay Shirky, Don Tapscott (an innovative Canadian business and technology strategist), various members of British government and social media strategist (including Charles Leadbetter, Lee Bryant, Sophia Parker, and many others) and numerous fanatical football fans, insecure couch surfers, lenders and borrowers, politicians, hipster band-members, and mums.
Video on vimeo: http://watch.usnowfilm.com/