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Expert analysis of how things are developing
on 25 November 2010
I read Here Comes Everybody, read the Amazon crits and looked forward to Cognitive Surplus which I've just read. This is a review and comment on this second book.
Here Comes Everybody was a bit heavy going, but set up the fact that Prof S has an understanding of how our society is changing, particularly the way in which the internet has enabled Wikipedia footsoldiers (shorthand for the reasonably educated silent majority) to make a more useful contribution to society than merely editing our international free encyclopaedia.
That is what they are doing and that, I believe, is the essential message of Cognitive Surplus: we have brainpower to spare and we want to make our world a better place. Clay Shirky describes in great detail what is happening out there. There are some wonderful (my choice of adjective) developments as vested interests, record companies, cabals, software and hardware moguls, restrictive groups (include any authoritarian church you care to mention) and monopolies are forced to bow to the will of the Majority, the people who throughout history have had to accept the will of the various oligarchies that control them.
Things are still like that, but in Shirky's neck of the woods and mine, the winds of change are running fast. I'd love to tell you about how in Britain right now (November 2010) TV audiences have discovered they have the power to disrupt the voting systems that are supposed to deliver safe and satisfying public participation TV programmes. This is really grist to Clay Shirky's mill and maybe he'll tell us what this is all about in his next book. Keep writing, sir.