Holly Galloway's Extra Credit book paper

Holly Galloway

Comparison of “The Wisdom of Crowds,” and “Here Comes Everybody” regarding fashion

James Surowiecki’s “The Wisdom of Crowds,” and Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody,” examine the ability of a crowd to solve various problems as well as the way newly emerging technologies enhance a group’s ability to communicate. Surowiecki’s work focuses on dispelling the notion that a crowd or group of people is incapable of solving complex problems, and argues that the exact opposite is true. This pairs nicely with Shirky’s work, for it focuses on the tools social groups now have at their disposal that can, and will, assist various groups in solving various problems. Regarding fashion, these concepts enhance our understanding of how global social communication networks increase variety within the industry, therefore making it better, and rapidly disperse successful trends around the globe.
Surowiecki goes to great lengths providing evidence for the ability of crowds to solve complex problems, provided there is substantial individuality, diversity, and decentralization. This goes against centuries of popular thought, where the individual’s ability to solve a problem is often thought to be vastly superior to that of a fickle mob. Instead, it is the aggregation of a large number of reasonably informed individuals that provide the best solutions. The problems faced in the fashion industry include both the creation of potential fashions from which to choose, but also the ability to choose from the options the one that will be most successful. The key to Surowiecki’s approach to this problem involves the inclusion of as many potential fashions as possible, and the employment of a large, decentralized group making individual decisions that are then compared to one another. The result is the best possible fashion. A group could be assembled with the sole purpose of “betting” on which fashions will prove to be the most successful in the upcoming season, and the results would likely be disturbingly accurate. In order to ensure the pool of fashions upon which they “bet” is as diverse as possible, anyone would be allowed to submit designs.
This technique was never before an option, due to the limitations of designing, manufacturing, displaying, and gauging success in the pre-internet age. Designing fashion was a profession limited to very few individuals, and the sheer time it took for fashions to spread around the globe resulted in decade-long lags of dispersion. The overall result has been a relatively narrow variety, slow reaction time, and a near impossibility of predicting which emerging fashions would prove successful.
Shirky’s book informs this aspect of the new possibilities of fashions. While Surowiecki established that crowds are indeed reliable problem solvers, Shirky explains the technological and social framework in which such a system can exist. Before the internet, and its ability to gather people into groups, it was unreasonable for a fashion designer to scour the globe for new ideas and then calculate the probability of success a new fashion would have in an intended market. The cost of such a venture would have quickly bankrupted them. With the internet, however, global fashion trends can easily be compared and aggregated, effectively using the opinions of a large, diverse group to solve the problem of what will be fashionable. Fashions not only become more successful if established via the internet, but also spread around the globe immediately. This effect means more informed consumers, and also more informed designers from around the globe who no longer experience a lag, which in turn contribute to better fashions.
By removing the centralized, often hierarchical structure of the fashion designer industry, those involved in the creation of fashion will consistently produce more successful designs, because all ideas are shared and evaluated by diverse individuals, rather than approved by a committee or director acting on limited information. Likewise, Surowiecki points out that an individual or even small homogeneous group is not only inferior to a diverse group, but is likely to make wrong decisions. If the CIA was able to make such tragic errors in the Bay of Pigs due to “groupthink,” imagine what potential fashion blunders could be prevented by removing the elements of influence, authority, and group allegiance. Surely with this realization and the technological ability to aggregate global opinions, the fashion industry is likely to increase in pace of development and overall success of those manufacturers that best apply these concepts.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License