Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age

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Penguin, 2011 - Creative ability - 242 pages
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, 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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User Review  - jimocracy - LibraryThing

This turned out to be about a different topic than I had expected but I still enjoyed it very much. The author looks at our society of Internet connectivity and social media. There were definitely some nuggets that made me think about things in a new way. Read full review

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User Review  - nnschiller - LibraryThing

I starting reading the print version of this, stalled out and set it down. Then I picked it up again using the version. I found this a very nice continuation of the work he began in Here ... Read full review

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About the author (2011)

Clay Shirky writes, teaches, and consults on the social and economic effects of the internet, especially on places where our social and technological networks overlap. His goal is to describe the intersection of social tools and social life, helping people to understand both what's happening around them and how tools could he designed that better support social activity.

A professor at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, he has consulted for Nokia, Procter and Gamble, News Corp., the BBC, the US Navy and Lego. Over the years, his writings have appeared in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review, Wired, and IEEE Computer. Pivotal articles include 'Exiting Deanspace', an analysis of Howard Dean's loss of the US Democratic nomination in 2004, and how his web campaign may actually have contributed to the loss, and 'Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality', about the ways that the social dynamics of online communication tend to create great imbalances of attention.

A regular keynote speaker at tech conferences, he has never believed that technology is an end in itself; rather it is our use of technology that matters.

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