Tag Archives: Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky – Cognitive Surplus

Clay Shirky has just published his new book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in the Connected Age and he’s been doing the rounds of interviews. It’s his follow-up to the much cited Here Comes Everybody.
The new book deals with peoples ‘free time’ which Shirky describes as ‘cognitive surplus’. TV used to soak large amounts of everyones free time. But now many people, especially the young, are turning from passive TV consumption towards active web participation. I’ve just ordered my copy from Amazon.

His book is reviewed here in The Guardian

Determining or determined? In my literature review I’ve been looking at how technology is perceived as affecting society through technological determinism, social construction of technology or social shaping. There’s also an interview with Shirky in today’s Guardian in which he remarks that there are “techno-deterministic” discussions currently occurring on the web. Both internet utopians and sceptics have reached a point of agreement. They both believe that the web has fundamentally changed human behaviour. On this issue Shirky disagrees arguing that:

“Techies were making the syllogism, if you put new technology into an existing situation, and new behaviour happens, then that technology caused the behaviour. But I’m saying if the new technology creates a new behaviour, it’s because it was allowing motivations that were previously locked out. These tools we now have allow for new behaviours – but they don’t cause them.”

Shirky frames the “determined or determining” debate firmly from the perspective of the web arguing that new technologies are enablers that unlock suppressed (new) behaviour and appears to concur with the theory of  “social shaping”.

Ted talks – Clay Shirky: How cognitive surplus will change the world

[youtube qu7ZpWecIS8 460 277]

A New Decade

It’s been snowing heavily again. I’ve been writing most days over the winter break and have now completed 6,000 words with another 2000 to go. It’s been very intensive and parts have been enjoyable but I’m getting a bit weary of it now. It’s standing me in good stead as I’m going to have to get used to lots of writing over the coming years. My background has been in the design world where everything is more visual than textual. But over the last few years I’ve been writing more and more. My first foray into writing again came when I completed a PGCE followed by my MA both of which required large amounts of essay writing. This certainly got me in the swing again and I’m learning slowly to touch type.

I’m out tonight to see the comedian, Kim Noble, who uses multi-media in his act. He’s is said to be quite outrageous. The Guardian describes the show as being a “either a dark masterpiece that yields coruscating insights into the depressive mind (Noble has a history of mental illness), or it’s a wallow in squalor and self-pity, the staging of which marks its sensation-seeking nadir. Maybe it’s both. It’s certainly unforgettable.” Mmmm should be interesting.

During the research I found this video of Clay Shirky on YouTube. His book Here Comes Everybody gives an enlightened view of the world of sharing and participation. I’m finding his views more and more engaging with every read.

[youtube A_0FgRKsqqU 460 280]


It’s felt like a long week. I’ve spent three days teaching. Two of these were the last of my software training sessions. This week – Flash, which is notoriously difficult to teach, especially when some students arrive 20 minutes late into the lesson. Thankfully I now go down to one day a week of lecturing and tutorial sessions, giving me more time to get really stuck into my subject. Still, the money will help pay off my debts from last year.

This week has really felt like a transition week. I finally got my ID card and the first instalment of my bursary. This was delayed due to the numerous campuses and schools of the university having their own finance departments – all of which seemingly need signatures from all and sundry before payment can be made.  I travelled to my campus on Wednesday to get my ID card as the machine that made them on induction day was not operational and sending them through the post was potentially problematic due to the imminent postal strike. I now feel like I’m a proper research student who can enter all the University campuses without having to ask security to let me in and prove my identity. How liberating.

I spent the rest of Wednesday compiling the small amount of material I had amassed over the last weeks into some semblance of order for the meeting on Friday with my two supervisors. I’ve been developing my research question by writing down in a logical order my thought processes as questions, from the simple to the more complicated and from general to generational. It may seem premature but I’m exploring sites like Ning that allow you to set your own social networking sites. This may, or may not help, with ways to develop creative research methods. I also sent a request to be invited to join Google Wave which describes itself as an online tool  to ‘Communicate and collaborate in real time’.

On Friday I meet with my supervisors in a coffee shop, rather than the rather drab university canteen. The meeting lasts about an hour and a half and we discuss  my initial research questions and construct a plan of action for the next few weeks. This needs to be documented, agreed and handed to the university registry, soon after each meeting. I believe I’ve been given very good supervisors. I have a great deal of respect for them and think that they are going to be very supportive for my research. After the meeting I couldn’t resist going to my favourite house music store and buying a CD by the 80’s leftfield New York post-punk/funk band Liquid Liquid. (Haven’t bought a CD in a long time. I usually download but I couldn’t find this anywhere online.)

Saturday I received my books from Amazon, Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins and Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. I had ordered them on Wednesday, with an estimated five working day free delivery, so was delighted when they arrived early. They were delivered by HDNL, a private delivery service. This must be one of the measures Amazon have put in place to overcome the proposed national postal strike next week and a worrying prospect for the future of the Royal Mail. Once companies like Amazon leave, they are unlikely to come back. This seems to draw attention to the claim from the Royal Mail that they have less traffic due to email and the internet. What they don’t seem to have taken into account, on the upside, is the phenomenal rise in internet shopping that has created lots of large packages that need to be sent via mail and what potential value this has to their future business. Anyway, I digress.