FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, April 25, 2005

Smart Mobs Rock the Developing World

Anyone curious about the global impact of smart mobbing need go no further than the Smart Mobs blog -- a must-read for the serious futurist anyway. Lately, the phenomenon in which crowds coalesce and interact via cell phones and text messaging has taken on a decidedly international -- and revolutionary -- flavor.

Anti-Japanese protests in China were fueled by e-mail, texting and cellphone conversations, long after the government banned coverage of events in the state media.

The mere fact that smart mobbing exists in China is remarkable, considering how tightly the government controls the Internet and other media. Needless to say, the Chinese smart mobs are making authorities very nervous.

Just as surprising -- and perhaps of even greater consequence -- is the emergence of text messaging as an underground news medium in the Middle East.

Women demonstrating for voting rights in Kuwait,
in a protest organized in part by text messaging

As cell phones become more common in the Arab world (over half of Kuwaitis own them), texting is empowering those on all points of the political spectrum who have been disenfranchised, from women to teenagers to pro-democracy activists to Islamic radicals. Although most of the Persian Gulf states strictly regulate print, broadcast and Internet communication, they have not yet found an effective way to block SMS messaging. As the region continues to be shaken by change, the role of smart mobbing in the Arab world will be watched very carefully.

Sources: Washington Post, New York Times