Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky

Cognitive SurplusThis feels like a great lecture summarizing what we sense, but haven’t compiled into one place, about the power of social connecting in the Internet age. It’s full of examples of different, mostly successful, efforts to reach out online. Shirky categorizes them into 1) individual sharing (think restaurant reviews and bloggers), 2) communal sharing (like, foreign language study discussion groups, and medical support groups), 3 sharing for the public at large (millions creating Wikipedia and other public resources like carpools, etc.), and 4) civic sharing (communal fundraising for public good). He says we should value the latter two the most as they affect the most people, but he is by no means discounting the former.

He likens the revolutionary power to when the original printing press made mass media possible, rather then handwritten single copies. Our Internet combined with a revolution in ways people connect socially online and ability to self-publish but also create unlimited websites brings more solutions to more people faster and is a great boon if used wisely. His last chapter even gives advice especially aimed at those wanting to create new ways the ‘cognitive surplus’ of the thousands, millions, can increase public and civic sharing and help continue these trends.

Reviewed by Laura R.


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