As information technology evolves, new ways of spreading information spontaneously emerge.
Inevitably, "mass media" becomes decentralized meaning our news about things we are interested in increasingly comes from the people we are connected to. Centralized media, in order to survive, will need to serve that end.
Email, web, texting, messaging, phone, fax, autoresponders, phone cams ... Evolving according to their utility (how useful they are) and how they reduce transaction costs (how much simpler, cheaper, more effective they are), existing technologies become the technology base from which new technologies emerge, in an ever widening spiral of growth.
Overheard On A Streetcorner: "Something Me" by Cameron Marlow
"While walking home from work the other day I passed a group of guys emerging from a pizza joint. After a few handshakes and goodbyes they parted ways and made arrangements for their next meeting. And then one of them yelled across the street, "something me on Thursday." His friend looked a little confused, but I knew exactly what he was talking about. He added, "IM, call, email... I don't care."
So as new adopted communications technologies become as saturated as Email, we can expect grass roots political force to grow.
What interests me is the potential untapped power of the connected masses. The computational power of all connected home desktops in North America is far greater than the most powerful supercomputer. Even Google, which has an estimated computational capacity surpassing the most powerful supercomputer and approaching that of the human brain.
Estimates are that
the Human brain computes somewhere between 100 TERAflops and 1000 Teraflops,
and Google performs somwhere between 100 and 300 teraflops.
P.S. Since doing that bit of research, every time Google checks my spelling and responds with "did you mean..." the hair stands on the back of my neck :)
I don't know how current the Seti@home FAQ is, but they claim 15 TeraFLOPs at a cost of $500K and they are comparing it with IBM's ASCI White, rated at 12 TeraFLOPS with a cost of $110 million.
This potential computational power foreshadows the coming networked intelligence of the masses.
The economics of distributed communications technologies increase exponentially as more nodes are added to the network. As smart mobs become smart masses, political weight tilts faster and faster towards an irrevocable tipping point at which politics will be driven from the bottom up.
I see the day when the politics of local communities reflect the conscience of local mothers, the needs of children and all the things a community really wants in order to thrive and grow functionally.