Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age
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Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age

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by Clay Shirky
     
 

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The author of the breakout hit Here Comes Everybody reveals 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

Overview

The author of the breakout hit Here Comes Everybody reveals 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. In Cognitive 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 our cognitive surplus-aided by new technologies-will have on twenty-first-century society, and how we can best exploit those effects. Shirky envisions an era of lower creative quality on average but greater innovation, an increase in transparency in all areas of society, and a dramatic rise in productivity that will transform our civilization.

The potential impact of cognitive surplus is enormous. As Shirky points out, Wikipedia was built out of roughly 1 percent of the man-hours that Americans spend watching TV every year. Wikipedia and other current products of cognitive surplus are only the iceberg's tip. Shirky shows how society and our daily lives will be improved dramatically as we learn to exploit our goodwill and free time like never before.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Digital-age guru Shirky (Interactive Telecommunications/New York Univ.; Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, 2008, etc.) argues that new technology is making it possible for people to collaborate in ways that have the potential to change society. By "cognitive surplus," the author refers to the free time of the world's educated citizenry, which amounts to more than one trillion hours per year. In recent decades, the author writes, most people have devoted much of that time-20 hours per week-to watching television. But that is changing. Young people are now spending less time as passive TV viewers, or consumers, and more time using fast, interactive media as producers and sharers in pursuit of their favorite activities. Their behavior demonstrates that in a wired society it is possible to turn free time into a shared global resource that can be harnessed to connect individuals to achieve beneficial outcomes. Examples include such innovations as Wikipedia, the online free-content encyclopedia; PickupPal.com, a global rideshare community; and Ushahidi.com, which was created to gather citizen-generated reports on acts of violence in Kenya. In this well-written and highly speculative book, Shirky suggests that in these ways new media has enormous potential to transform our lives. No longer an abstraction called "cyberspace," social-media tools are now part of daily life, he writes. As society's connective tissue, they are flexible, cheap and inclusive, and allow people to behave in increasingly generous and social ways. The author discusses the many factors that have given rise to social media and suggests the conditions that will best allow voluntary groups to take advantage of the world's aggregate free time to benefit society. "If we want to create new forms of civic value," he writes, "we need to improve the ability of small groups to try radical things." Shirky may be overly optimistic about the possible benefits of social media, but he makes clear their growing global importance. An informed look at the social impact of the Internet. Agent: John Brockman/Brockman, Inc.
From the Publisher
"An informed look at the social impact of the Internet." —Kirkus
Library Journal
Shirky (interactive telecommunications, NYU; Here Comes Everybody) opens his latest nonfiction work in bleak, dangerous, overcrowded 1720s London, then moves to the present digital age, showing how advancements in technology and connectivity have spurred a torrent of collaborative creativity—from carpools and campuswide study groups to Wikipedia and Linux—whose potential we've yet fully to exploit. Veteran voice artist Kevin Foley reads with authority, adding credence to Shirky's text. Not just for IT professionals, this title should appeal also to business and community leaders, who will glean much insight into the profound impact and potential of developments in the technological age. [The Penguin Pr. hc was described as a "thought-provoking, sunny, optimistic read," LJ 6/15/10.—Ed.]—M. Gail Preslar, Eastman Chemical Co. Business Lib., Kingsport, TN

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594202537
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/10/2010
Pages:
230
Sales rank:
1,133,212
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"An informed look at the social impact of the Internet." —-Kirkus

Meet 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 of Fortune 500 companies working on network design, including Nokia, Lego, the BBC, Newscorp, Microsoft, as well as the Library of Congress, the U.S. Navy, and the Libyan government. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London, Harvard Business Review, Business 2.0, and Wired, and he is a regular keynote speaker at tech conferences. Mr. Shirky lives in Brooklyn.

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Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
This brainy book, with its fascinating historical and scientific references, illuminates a central aspect of 21st century life - what people are doing on the Internet actively and jointly with the thinking time they used to spend watching TV passively and alone - and enables readers to see this slice of human experience in a new way. New York University professor Clay Shirky intelligently and insightfully explains how putting the Internet and its online social media tools into the hands of nearly two billion people who have more than a trillion hours of free time is resulting in a new, optimistic and empowered world. He cites such unique, useful Web developments as Wikipedia, PickupPal, the Apache Project and countless other online wonders. If you don't yet fully understand the potential of social media, you will when you read this book. getAbstract recommends this outstanding work to anyone who wants to know more about how and why the Internet and social media are dramatically changing the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago