Clay Shirky at the LSE

Cognitive SurplusI had an enjoyable couple of hours yesterday evening at the LSE, attending Clay Shirky‘s lecture on cognitive surplus, which was launching his book of the same name.

It was an enjoyable hour, and a real pleasure to hear stories and arguments for the use of social technology for social good.

I must admit, however, that having read Shirky’s previous book, Here Comes Everybody, and watched other lectures of his online, that perhaps his thinking hasn’t really developed that far. Cognitive Surplus seems to be a continuation of the themes examined in Here Comes Everybody rather than anything radically new.

Having said that, I haven’t read the book, but will report back when I have (it isn’t available on Kindle in the UK yet for some reason, which is annoying).

Here are the notes I took during the talk, which may or may not be useful.

  • Time we have available (free time) which is growing
  • Platform for making use of that time effectively (Internet)
  • Use of the network: consume, produce, share
  • Wikipedia = 100 million hours of time in 10ish years
  • Tv = 200 billion hours watched every year in US
  • The time spent watching adverts in the US over one weekend is roughly equivalent to one wikipedia
  • Very small numbers of change can have huge effects
  • Ushahidi – Kenyan tracks updates from various media. Been open sourced and used around the world.
  • Generosity + digital tech
  • Successful digital projects are those that appeal to our human instincts
  • Transition from alchemy to chemistry – same tech but different approach/culture. Supported by printing press and the new scientific journals.
  • Patientslikeme – huge documentation project of sufferers. Large amounts of aggregate data: shared value. Commercial project. “digital sharecropping”. Why do people contribute for free? They like it!
  • Social pressure often more effective than contractual (example of picking kids up from school on time) once broken also not self healing.
  • Openness and sharing is a good thing. Patientslikeme want to effect a culture change in the medical profession. Therefore tech is secondary to the project. Makes it possible but the objective is cultural.
  • Levels o participation and collaboration: lolcats are communal. Wikipedia has public value. Patientslikeme creates civic value. Gets more difficult and complicated as you go along. Also the civic is the most important.
  • Role of government – to help to create the space for social capital and cognitive surplus to emerge. Digital divide: participation rates much higher in better educated households
  • Things to think about: scarcity, loose joins, cheapness of distributing information, Internet routes itself around faults