Clay Shirky spoke tonight at the Berkman Center about his just released book, Here Comes Everyone, and the power of group forming (full video and pics). He discussed how the ease of online group forming affects sharing, conversation, collaboration and collective action. David Weinberger took detailed notes of the talk. Very interesting talk, and I liked his answer to my question about possible downsides (paraphrased):
A: I used to be a cyber-utopian. That view broke for me. I was teaching a class at NYU on social software. One of my students was a community manager for a magazine for teenage girls. They were shutting down the health and beauty boards because we can’t get the pro-anorexia girls to shut up with tips about how to avoid eating. I was thinking this isn’t a side effect of the Net. It was an effect. Ridiculously easy group forming for anorexics. Now, we have to move to a publish-then-filter world [filtering at the edges]. That pattern suggests we’re moving the media world from decision to reaction. We can’t stop the pro-anorexia groups from forming. All we can do is watch and act. A. My nightmare is that the advertising budget for print shrinks and we lose newspapers in mid-size American cities. We lose investigative journalism [that blogging doesn't replace a city beat reporter]. Every city under a million goes back to endemic civic corruption. The newspaper industry is not ready now to talk about how to save investigative journalism as we lose print.