Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age Paperback – 2 Jun 2011
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Lucid and assured ... the most amazing fact about Shirky's incisive manual for building a better world is this: it's just possible that everything he promises may be true (Guardian)
Shirky is the best chronicler we have of the unfolding cultural revolution brought on by the web (New Statesman)
About the Author
Clay Shirky teaches at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, where he researches the interrelated effects of our social and technological networks. He has consulted with a variety ofgroups working on network design, including Nokia, the BBC, Newscorp,Microsoft, BP, Global Business Network, the Library of Congress, the US Navy, the Libyan government, and Lego. His writings have appearedin the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London, Harvard Business Review, Business 2.0, and Wired.
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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.
Cognitive Surplus picks up from where HCE left off, and discusses how we can use the power to "do good" that has been released due to have more leisure time in modern culture. Just like social media has empowered people to challenge centralised authority (HCE) so it has freed us to be more effective in our altruism. The sub title says it all "creativity and generosity in a connected age".
The book surveys the enabling factors (means, motive and opportunity), showing how social media powerfully adds in each of these areas, and also looks at culture, community and individualism (and the tensions therein). Finally Shirky deals with how this has come to pervade modern life and culture and how it's changing us.
Perhaps one omission is that he doesn't deal very much with the negative side - social media can be an equally pwerful tool in the hands of those less altruistic: cyber-bullying, paedophilia, etc., being at the darker end of the spectrum.
As ever Shirky is always readable, well researched and challenging. This is a "must read" for anyone interested in social media.
This is one book that will help you get closer to an understanding of the massive changes that are happening right now. Yes technology opened the door, but it is our passive brains that has been put in "activate" mode that is the true massive change.
If possible, I think it was even better than his previous, Here Comes Everybody.
It's not a how to guide to social media - more of a philosophy about the digital age. I gained loads of insights and so will you, hence me writing this review so that I am social networking the good word!
It also made me stop and think about my 'free time' and how I choose to use it.
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