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How society has changed from passive consumers to active participants...

  • Jan 8, 2011
I tend to take things like Wikipedia for granted, assuming that someone has already put information out there that I need. But what drives and motivates someone to do that, and where do they find the time to participate in that fashion? Clay Shirky covers this information (and more) in his book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. I found myself starting to understand how and why the shift from consumer to producer occurred, and what it means to me and to society.

Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus; Means; Motive; Opportunity; Culture; Personal, Communal, Public, Civic; Looking for the Mouse; Acknowledgments; Notes; Index

The term "cognitive surplus" is what Shirky uses to describe the advances that our society has made since the end of World War II. People are more educated and spend less time on manual chores due to technology. All this free time and additional mental capabilities largely went untapped, as the growth of the TV broadcast market meant that many used that free time to be entertained, to be a consumer of content pushed out over the airwaves. That's fine for awhile, but it doesn't really move society forward. The internet has started to change that, as people can now easily produce content and actively participate instead. Those spare mental cycles and hours in the day can be harnessed to inform others and create a lasting change. For instance, Shirky uses the example of Wikipedia, a voluntary encyclopedia of information open to be updated by all. He estimates that the time spent building Wikipedia into what it is today is equivalent to 1 percent of the man-hours spent watching TV. People cut back one mindless sitcom, and look what happens? Information abounds...

The question usually crops up on these types of efforts, however. "What do *I* get out of this contribution?" There are many paybacks that Shirky covers. Some do it because they enjoy it. It's a hobby, much like collecting stamps or growing flowers. But there are also tangible rewards, such as when you choose to contribute to a site like CouchSurfing.net. You invite others into your home for short stays, knowing that you will be able to do the same if and when you need it. To make that work, you need people who both give AND take, and thus participation lets you become part of the overall group that benefits.

I too participate in many of these cognitive surplus activities (such as writing reviews of what I read for Amazon and other sites). It's something I enjoy doing (writing), and I get a personal reward when I get feedback for doing so, as well as helping people make choices. Shirky's book helped me put these things into a better context in my overall life. Looking at the book, I think I could have gotten much of the same information from a shorter book (or series of longer articles). But overall, Cognitive Surplus is a good read if you're at all interested as to what motivates people to be active online participants and content creators.

Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

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More Cognitive Surplus: Creativity ... reviews
review by . September 07, 2010
According to Clay Shirky's new book, Cognitive Surplus, the average American watches twenty hours of television a week. That is a part time job. We watch more television every year, but there is a curious trend occuring; people of the younger generations are watching less. While television provides people comfort, a sense of belonging, even when alone, and it tells stories and helps people pass the time, more people are spending more time creating their own media, contributing to open source …
Quick Tip by . June 12, 2011
posted in A Whole New World
Lots of potentials with regards to how we use our time & participate in this virtual world of ours. However, I much prefer Shirky's 2008 book HERE COMES EVERYBODY to his latest. We are in transition as regard to our roles in the new world and Shirky didn't quite spell out where we should focus our energies on, imho. He did bring in some interesting observations with regards to what's happening in the world of ours. As with us, this book seems like a transition, more like a series …
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Thomas Duff ()
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Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
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The author of the breakout hitHere Comes Everybodyreveals how new technology is changing us from consumers to collaborators, unleashing a torrent of creative production that will transform our world.

For decades, technology encouraged people to squander their time and intellect as passive consumers. Today, tech has finally caught up with human potential. InCognitive Surplus, Internet guru Clay Shirky forecasts the thrilling changes we will all enjoy as new digital technology puts our untapped resources of talent and goodwill to use at last.

Since we Americans were suburbanized and educated by the postwar boom, we've had a surfeit of intellect, energy, and time-what Shirky calls a cognitive surplus. But this abundance had little impact on the common good because television consumed the lion's share of it-and we consume TV passively, in isolation from one another. Now, for the first time, people are embracing new media that allow us to pool our efforts at vanishingly low cost. The results of this aggregated effort range from mind expanding-reference tools like Wikipedia-to lifesaving-such as Ushahidi.com, which has allowed Kenyans to sidestep government censorship and report on acts of violence in real time.

Shirky argues persuasively that this cognitive surplus-rather than being some strange new departure from normal behavior-actually returns our society to forms of collaboration that were natural to us up through the early twentieth century. He also charts the vast effects that ...
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ISBN-10: 1594202532
ISBN-13: 978-1594202537
Author: Clay Shirky
Genre: Professional & Technical, Health, Mind & Body, Science
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The
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