Monday, March 19, 2012

Assignment Two - Stalking Rheingold

 As I read through the postings, it was interesting how many times the thinking of certain thinkers emerged, such as Lessig, Bruns and Rheingold. Below are two word clouds using entries from the New Media Narratives blog. Rheingold is one of the 'bigger' names to emerge on the March 19 word cloud, although Bruns also makes an appearance. Using the power of the tag, I decided to follow Rheingold as he wandered through and influenced our submissions and offer a summation below. 

 My apology in advance for any misrepresentation of the intent of the blog postings referenced; all errors and omissions are those of the author, not the contributors.

February 18, 2012 – NMN word cloud (  

March 19, 2012 - NMN word cloud (

So, why Rheingold?

Rheingold approaches media literacy with an infectious brand of intellectual curiosity and plays up his personality and engagement with his subject and audience through his humour, playfulness and outrageous wardrobe – Don Cherry looks like an arch-conservative compared to Rheingold. It’s an everyman zeitgeist that takes the experiences we have on the internet and reflects them back in ways that deepen our appreciation of the power of the Web 2.0 powered world. 

As Rheingold says himself in Participative Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies, he started first experiencing what he came to call virtual communities and went on to help create the this new field of cyberculture studies “only after personally experiencing something new, moving and authentic (para. 5, n.d.).

Rheingold creates a shared sense of experience with his reader;  we see our gossipy and otherwise selves in what he says in the same article about social networks from Illona’s posting Participative Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies by Howard Rheingold:

“Online social networks can be powerful amplifiers of collective action precisely because they augment and extend the power of ever-complexifying human sociality. To be sure, gossip, conflict, slander, fraud, greed and bigotry are part of human sociality, and those parts of human behavior can be amplified, too. But altruism, fun, community and curiosity are also parts of human sociality−and I propose that the Web is an existence proof that these capabilities can be amplified, as well. Indeed, our species' social inventiveness is central to what it is to be human.”
 (Rheingold, 2011, para. 2) 

Smart Mobs
Jonathon Teghtmeyer referenced Rheingold when talking about Ito’s insights into the way that people need to be able to participate on the internet, at times being senders and/or producers of content and at other times taking on the role of receiver and/or user of content. Teghtmeyer goes on to point out that in Rheingold’s concept of the smart mob, what draws people together may be the ‘volume or persuasiveness of the content’ (Teghtmeyer, n.d.). 

Hillary Burridge gives examples of the ethical equivocation of smart mobs and talks about how Rheingold pointed out that smart mobs are not necessarily altruistic in her posting entitled When Smart Mobs Go Bad. Glenn Kubish goes on off the beaten social science path trek when he discusses MobEyes: Smart Mobs For Urban Monitoring With A Vehicular Sensor Network by Uichin Lee et al, but yet again, Rheingold’s contributions to thinking about affiliation and smart mobs emerge. 

Mobile Devices and Computer Hardware
The authors of MobEyes also bring out Rheingold’s fascination with the devices we use to access the internet. Whereas with Bruns and Shirky, the focus is predominantly on the electronic interaction, Rheingold discusses smart phones and what they mean for an interconnected world. Kubish draws on Rheingold’s insights in this area. “The diffusion of mobile devices, says Rheingold, “will help people coordinate actions with others around the world -- and, perhaps more importantly, with people nearby. Groups of people using these tools will gain new forms of social power, new ways to organize their interactions...” (xii-xiii).  

Illona draws out this aspect of Rheingold’s academic work as well in her posting about Clay Shirky , New Book “Here Comes Everybody” – YouTube video file, pointing out that Rheingold focuses on the impact of technology on the ability to write and publish in the video file, “Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution”, whereas Shirky looks at the internet’s impact on group formation and collective action. 

Digital Literacies
Another contribution by Rheingold lies in his work on literacies for the digital age.  Glenn Kubish, Hillary Burridge and Jonathon Teghtmeyer all brought out this out in their blog postings.

Kubish and Burridge both talked about the importance of being able to determine if information and the motives of the people creating the content are trustworthy. Kubish quoted from Rheingold: “Perhaps the most important question about the future of augmenting collective action through the use of the Internet and mobile communication is the degree to which trustworthy and accurate information can be distinguished and screened from misleading, false, missourced information.” (2008, p. 237)

Burridge draws on the same point in talking about why videos go viral, noting that when a celebrity endorses a video, the “video is thrust in front of millions of people with the celebrity's seal of approval. As Howard Rheingold (2002) says, "reputation is one of the ways we mediate trust" (Burridge, n.d.).

Teghtmeyer provided a thoughtful posting on digital literacies and the call for them to be taught in the school system, pointing out that:

Bruns would likely include literacies that enable both the production elements required as well as the user elements. On the production side, elements of creativity, reasoning and collaboration would be critical, whereas on the usage side literacies related to attention, critical thinking and analysis would be favourable. These literacies with some overlap mesh nicely with ones outlined elsewhere by Howard Rheingold: attention, participation, credibility, collaboration and network awareness (Rheingold, 2010).

Teghtmeyer brings in an article written by Asselin and Moayeri, pointing out that their work on ‘expanding literacies for learning’ ‘complement Bruns and reinforce Rheingold’ (Teghtmeyer, n.d.). Asselin and Moayeri's literacies include criticality, metacognition, reflection, and skills for creating and publishing content” (p. 2). The authors draw out the distinction between using Web 2.0 in the classroom as a glorified electronic scribbler versus having students use the connectivity of Web 2.0 to truly master new Literacies and new ways of thinking, what the authors call “ ‘mindset two’ learning and knowledge: participatory, collaborative, multimodal, democratic, and distributive (2011, p. 4).

As Jarret Macleod said in his critique of Rheingold’s TedTalk, “Through scholars like Rheingold, we will perhaps one day be able to see the true collaborative power of the Internet (Howard Rheingold on collaboration | Video on, n.d.).

Rheingold combines his intellectual prowess with a willingness to give of self (one of the hallmarks of transformational leaders) as, alongside us, he explores our new media world. If he seems a bit glib at times, his pioneering work on smart mobs, digital literacies and cyberculture itself stand on their own merits. His wry running commentary is insightful and eminently quotable.


Asselin, M. & Moayeri, M. (2011). The Participatory Classroom: Web 2.0 in the Classroom. Practical Strategies – Literacy Learning: the Middle Years: 19(2).

Bruns, A. (2007). Produsage: A Working Definition [Online]. Available: [2012, Mar 17].

Clay Shirky on New Book “Here Comes Everybody”. [Video file]. Retrieved from 

Howard Rheingold Profile. TED: Ideas Worth Sharing. Retrieved from

Lee, U., Zhou, B., Gerla, M., Magistretti, E., Bellavista, P., & Corradi, A. (October 2006). MobEyes: Smart mobs for a urban monitoring with a vehicular sensor network.” IEEE Wireless Communications, 52-57

Rheingold, H. (2002). “Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.” MIT World. [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Rheingold, H. (2003). Smart mobs: The next social revolution. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

Rheingold, H. (2008). Mobile media and political collective action. In J. E. Katz (Ed.), Handbook of mobile communication studies (pp. 225-237). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Rheingold, H. (2008).  The new power of collaboration.(2008). Retrieved March 8, 2012, from []

Rheingold, H. (2010). Adora Svitak: A 12 Year Old on Digital Literacy [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Rheingold, H. & Ito, M. (2010). Video Interview: Mimi Ito on Participation Literacy, Part One of Three [Video file]. Retrieved from:
Rheingold, H. (2011). Participative Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies. In ITO, J.(Eds.), FREESOULS captured and released.  Retrieved from

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