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Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution Reprint Edition

32 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0738208619
ISBN-10: 0738208612
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The title of this book is a mild pun. People are using smart "mobs" (rhymes with "robes") to become smart "mobs" (rhymes with "robs"), meaning, sophisticated mobile Internet access is allowing people who don't know each other to act in concert. In this timely if at times overenthusiastic survey of wireless communication devices, Rheingold (The Virtual Community) conveys how cell phones, pagers and PDAs are shaping modern culture. He interviewed dozens of people around the world who work and play with these technologies to see how this revolution is manifesting, and his findings are stirring. The concept has caught on among young Japanese, where cliques of teenagers hang out together all day, despite being in different places, by sending and receiving hundreds of iconic text transmissions on their iMode telephones. And demonstrators in Seattle and Manila relied on wireless telephones to coordinate their actions and evade barricades. In major cities, Rheingold says, techno-hipsters can congregate in "WiFi" areas that interact with their wireless devices to let them participate in a virtual social scene. In one amusing example, he tells of upscale prostitutes who can enter their services and prices into their mobile phones, allowing customers to discreetly determine if anyone nearby is selling what they want to buy (a Japanese company, Lovegety, has already adapted this idea to dating). This study of the potential of mobile, always on, fast Internet access nicely serves as a travelogue to the future, showing the possibilities and dangers of communications innovation.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Mobile, wireless, Net-connected devices are now being hawked by the computer and telecom industries, prompting technology author Rheingold to take stock of the incipient revolution. Glimpsing the future in vignettes of wireless users in Helsinki and Tokyo, Rheingold primarily explores the sociology that might characterize a world of "ad-hocracy," in which people cluster temporarily around information of mutual interest. Rheingold describes how consumerism might change when pedestrians, as their mobiles detect stores and restaurants, patch into electronic gossip about an establishment. The location-detection feature of these devices will inevitably breach privacy, which informs Rheingold's somewhat skeptical stance toward this brave new world, and contrasts with the enthusiasm of certain computer scientists he interviews, such as Microsoft's promoter of a wireless urban space pervasively connected to the Internet. The cyber-savvy and socially aware will be interested and undoubtedly concerned by Rheingold's informed report. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (October 16, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738208612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738208619
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #760,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Howard Rheingold is the author of:

Tools for Thought
The Virtual Community
Smart Mobs
Net Smart
Excursions to the Far Side of the Mind
Mind Amplifier


editor of Whole Earth Review

editor of The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog

founding executive editor of Hotwired

founder of Electric Minds

Has taught:

Participatory Media and Collective Action (UC Berkeley, SIMS, Fall
2005, 2006, 2007 )

Virtual Community/Social Media (Stanford, Fall 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010; UC Berkeley,
Spring 2008, 2009)
Toward a Literacy of Cooperation (Stanford, Winter, 2005)

Digital Journalism (Stanford University Winter, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 )

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At the very end of the book, the author quotes James Madison as carved into the marble of the Library of Congress: "...a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." And there it is--Howard Rheingold has documented the next level of the Internet, in which kids typing 60 words a minute with one thumb, "swarms" of people converging on a geospatial node guided only by their cell phones; virtual "CIAs" coming together overnight to put together massive (and accurate) analysis with which to take down a corporate or government position that is fradulent--this is the future and it is bright.
As I go back through the book picking out highlights, a few of the following serve to capture the deep rich story being told by this book--breakthroughs coming from associations of amateurs rather than industry leaders; computer-mediated trust brokers--collective action driven by reputation; detailed minute-by-minute information about behaviors of entire populations (or any segment thereof); texting as kid privacy from adult hearing; the end of the telephone number as relevant information; the marriage of geospatial and lifestyle/preference information to guide on the street behavior; the perennial problem of "free riders" and how groups can constrain them; distributed processing versus centralized corporate lawyering; locations with virtual information; shirt labels with their transportation as well as cleaning history (and videos of the sex partners?)--this is just mind-boggling.
Finally, the author deserves major credit for putting all this techno-marvel stuff into a deep sociological and cultural context. He carefully considers the major issues of privacy, control, social responsibility, and group behavior.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Alex Soojung-Kim Pang on October 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Smart mobs" sounds like an oxymoron: after all, what's more impulsive or uncontrolled than a mob? It's typical of Howard Rheingold to throw down such a brightly-colored rhetorical gauntlet, and then to describe how smart mobs are emerging in places as diverse as Tokyo, anti-globalization protests, and virtual communities. Forget images of mobs storming the Bastille, or rioters: smart mobs are a new kind of social organization, made possible by real-time, connective technologies-- cell phones, SMS, pagers, and the Web. If old-fashioned mobs were just giant assemblies of individuals, communications technologies give them nervous systems, the ability to coordinate their actions, to work together, and respond to changes and challenges. Smart mobs are not automatically good or evil. The crowds that brought down Phillipine president Joseph Estrada responded to calls put out via SMS. Anti-globalization protesters have been avidly embraced network technologies. So has Al Qaeda.
Some readers will doubtless find familiar ideas in "Smart Mobs:" for whatever odd reason, 2002 has been The Year of Books About Self-Organizing Social Networks, thanks to writers as different at Steven Johnson ("Emergence") and Mark Taylor ("The Moment of Complexity"). But Rheingold is scrupulous and generous about acknowleding his influences; besides, the real value of his book lies in his own fieldwork, and his reflections on what the smart mob phenomenon will mean for business, politics, and social life. Even if your copy of Wolfram is dog-eared and the spine is weak from re-reading (and let's face it, whose isn't), it's still worth following Rheingold through Shibuya, Helsinki, and the Web...
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41 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Brito on August 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In Smart Mobs, Howard Rheingold catalogues the technologies that are converging to change the way we live: mobile communications, social networks, distributed processing and pervasive computing. He does a good job of identifying and explaining these and predicting what it will mean when they get together. This makes for an interesting read, but I'm afraid I still found the book maddening.
The worst thing is that a whole half the book is in quotes (or worse, block quotes) from other people and their dissertations or promotional materials. This makes the book lack a singular voice and is very disconcerting. Rheingold not only attributes everything to a fault, he also has the bad habit of explaining where he interviewed each person, what they ate, what funny thing the interviewee had in their office. This makes for ponderous, stalling prose that is painful to read.
He also makes the Lessig-inspired mistake of dividing the world into two camps: the government and big media are lumped on one side, and heroic no-property anarchists are placed in the other. He's right to point out that big media's vested interests are a creature of government, but he doesn't get that that really isn't capitalism. A true market is the ultimate form of the mediated cooperation he pines for.
If you are a techno-cultural geek, you have to read this book. But take it with a grain of salt, and brace yourself for plenty of minutiae.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Derek Powazek on October 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Howard Rheingold has impeccable timing. In the mid 80s, aware that personal computers were changing the way we think, he wrote Tools for Thought. In the early 90s, he explored how emerging digital networks were changing social groups in The Virtual Community. Twice now he's put words to important social/digital trends, years before they reach critical mass.
So when Rheingold writes a book, it's a good idea to pay attention. His new book, Smart Mobs, takes a hard look at what happens when networked virtual communication goes mobile. And it's a mind-bending read.
Consider for a moment that, for a good many years, personal computers sat in offices and living rooms totally disconnected from each other. It seems quaint now, but I remember that time. And if you can remember the sea change that happened in the world when all those computers (and the people behind them) got connected to the internet, you can get some inkling of the change Rheingold predicts is on its way when that same networked computational power goes mobile.
We're in for another whirlwind of change in technology, and with it, a change in the way communities come together and express themselves. The book is a captivating exploration of what these new technologies are (think internet-enabled, location-aware mobile phones and PDAs) and how they're already shaping communities around the world.
Howard's writing is engaging and deep, and the book is an evenhanded exploration of the new technology, both good and bad. If you want a glimpse of the virtual communities of the future, pick up his book and follow the ongoing conversation at
(Reprinted from with permission.)
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