Advances in technology (cheap broadband, web services, simpler interfaces) have resulted in an explosion in consumer generated content/peer production/collaboration/online networking. Witness: Wikipedia, SecondLife, MySpace, eBay, YouTube, and the forthcoming book, Wikinomics.
Those are just some of the "big guys" that have generated lots of talk in the mainstream media. There are countless other examples flying well below the (mass) radar.
Collectively, these sites and communities caused Wired to proclaim "People Power" the #1 trend in 2006 and Time to name "You" its person of the year. And they caused Ron Bloom to put forth the 5/50 rule back in 2005: that within 5 years, over 50% of content consumed would be created by other consumers.
I've been following this with much interest, not only because it has a tremendous impact on advertising, marketing, and media, but because it's also having a profound effect on social norms, including the way people meet, interact, collaborate, make decisions, etc. There are hundreds (thousands!) of ideas to delve into on this topic, but I'm going to limit this post to one: Tribewanted.com.
An online appeal has been made to recruit 5000 people, who, in exchange for annual dues of about $230, get "citizenship" in a group-built eco-community on the island of Vorovoro, Fiji. Dues include a stay on the island and access to the tribe's website where all governing decisions (elected leaders, designated holidays) are determined via concensus through email and online forums.
From the website:
After the tribe is formed it will start to make important decisions. Every member will be asked to discuss and decide on key Island issues including:
- What will the Island be called?
- Who shall be the 12 Chiefs that lead the tribe?
- What kind of infrastructure will be required on the Island?
- What kind of Island activities and adventures should be introduced?
- Should specific days be celebrated in the tribal calendar?
- Should the tribe educate each other on the Island?
All members will be actively involved in the running of the Island via the online community that will become the tribe's virtual headquarters for Island brainstorming and discussions. Tribe members will have their own profile, their own blog, their own chatroom, and the latest in online community technology.
Wow. That's taking social computing to another level. The community launched back in April, and has 1040 tribe members to date, which doesn't sound like much but is certainly enough to provide for a lively social experiment (as evidenced by their blog and MySpace pages). Students of social media know that a relative few can influence the masses.
Will it work? We'll have to stay tuned to find out.