Monday, September 14, 2009

Here Comes Everybody - airline example

The following is an example from Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody, outlining how a pissed off airline passenger used technology to coordinate action for passengers' rights.

Brief overview:
In 1999, a plane full of passengers traveling from Miami to Detroit landed on time. However, because of a snowstorm in Detroit and consequent gate backup, passengers were not permitted to deboard the plane for seven hours. Because the flight was short, food, drink, and bathrooms were in limited supply. After 5 hours, the passengers and pilot called the CEO of Northwest airlines at home and spoke to his wife, which got results. While the passengers were annoyed, they weren't annoyed enough to do anything about it after.
This scenario was repeated across multiple airlines. One passenger on a similar flight became especially annoyed and formed a group to create a passengers' bill of rights.

technological change:
Even if you are stuck in a plane you are not completely isolated. Passengers used cell phones
to contact CEO - but they were still stuck on a plane for 8 hours. Nearly everyone had cellphones. On the second described flight, one or two passengers were pissed off enough to stick with it and create a passenger's bill of rights, mobilizing people to pay attention to the incident long after it was over. She used the comment section of an online newspaper to contact other passengers on the flight. This triggered a chain of contacts. While newspapers were previously one-way media endeavors, online newspapers allow for a shared platform.

social mechanisms:
Able to find out information quickly (speed)
; situation people can relate to (who hasn't been stuck on a plane?). Because of the familiarity and relative commoness of the experience, the petition for a bill of rights was able to garner thousands of signatures - far more than the passengers affected by these specific incidents. This happened because one person was committed to creating a change - there was no diffusion of responsibility, which could create a situation where everyone expects others to do the work, so no one does.

social outcomes:
The lane was deboarded, passenger bill of rights proposed, JetBlue CEO resigned because of a similar situation, VERY bad press for airlines
. The Passengers' Rights movement also received additional press in major news outlets, further creating pressure on airline industries. Consumers have the opportunity to respond to businesses and to the public - a online revewing site such as is one example of how individuals can shape perceptions of others about a business.

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