Thursday, July 29, 2010
Creative Surplus Creativity and Generosity In A Connected Age by Clay Shirky
The central idea of this book is that because of social media people are able to pool resources in their free time to create unique digital projects. These projects can range from free encyclopedias like Wikipedia to lolcats which is a collection of funny pictures of cats. Social media in this book expands beyond computers to include smartphones and cell phones.
Clay Shirky is arguing people are moving away from passive forms of entertainment like television to more interactive forms of entertainment like the internet. He compares television to gin which is a bit far fetched but entertaining. This change represents a shift in values which should create a more interactive future.
I found the book to be very positive and a bit evangelistic about the benefits of social media. He dismisses the disruption caused by deprofessionalization when amateurs volunteer to do many jobs that were professional in nature. Clay Shirky touches only briefly on the concept of digital sharecropping where writers and other creative professionals work for free or very little money on blogs and other digital projects.
The description of the benefits of social media is the best part of this book. We learn how cell phone use makes government more transparent, how people created open source software, and how computers are making us more connected. He points out that services like http://www.meetup.com/ extend social networks into the real world and allow people who had only met on computers to meet in person.
This book had a conversational tone that spoke directly to the reader. It tried to connect with peoples every day experience of using the internet. I found it to be easy to read. It was also well researched with extensive notes and an index.
Clay Shirky also wrote Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. He is considered an internet guru and is a professor at New York University.