Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Clay Shirky: How cognitive surplus will change the world

Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, refers to Clay Shirky as "a prominent thinker on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies".  Shirky is a consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. He teaches a New Media course at New York University investigating the interrelated effects of social networks and technological networks, and how our networks shape culture and vice-versa.

In a recent TED Talk, Shirky explains how the social sciences are recognizing that our intrinsic motivation for being a part of something larger than ourselves is leading to the "design for generosity", enabled by social media. Simply put, we have positive feelings about sharing information with one another. Shirky argues that civic value is a side effect of communal participation in large scale action in the 21st Century.

This ties in with the research of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I just finished reading Half the Sky, Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Watching Shirky's talk was exciting and confirmed for me that there many opportunities to work against poverty and injustice via social networks that will be game changers, especially for women.

Kristof seems to be one of the only journalists writing about the oppression of women on a regular basis in the NY Times. In the stories Kristof and WuDunn share about women across the developing world, we learn that the key to economic and social progress lies in unleashing women's potential.

Take 10 minutes out of your day and watch Shirky demonstrate the correlation between social media and changing the world.

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