Knowledge Exchange: Cognitive Surplus

March 31, 2009

I was interested by Clay Shirky’s (professor at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program) term cognitive surplus. The technology revolution in the 20th century resulted in increased personal wealth, education attainment, rising life expectancy and the five day week – all resulting in free time. Shirky proposes that the response to the cognitive surplus was crisis – in the form of watching TV! How big is the surplus? Shirky uses Wikipedia as a measure – the whole of wikipedia equates to 100 million hours of human thought. The potential for user-lead consuming, producing and sharing is revealed when compared to the time spent on TV – in the US every year 200 billion hours of TV are watched. When people start experimenting with the surplus it becomes integrated into and transforms society. For example the Brazilian site Vasco Furtado – the website allows people to record instances of crime on a Google map. The information already exists as tacit knowledge but this platform allows its gathering and exchange, and exposing the weakness in the top-down system to disseminate this information.



One Response to “Knowledge Exchange: Cognitive Surplus”

  1. julia Says:

    i think this is really inteteresting because it deals with the potential of people… and considers what people wnat to contribute in temrs of relations with others…

    it also made me think that time does not always have to be considered in terms of production… there is a very intertesting piece of work by Black Dogs/ Andy Abbot that considers the pastimes of people in leeds… he contacted as many groups with hobbys- be it sky diving or oragami and asked them to come to the centre of leeds and put their pastime on display in the centre of the road… and as an alternative to shopping they had a big shed of activities and talked to people walking down the street about their passions/ how they spent their free time… it was a way of defining people in another way other than their job ‘what they are’…(perhaps they didn’t do this because they were unemplyed/ retired etc or maybe they did, but this intertest was more telling than the job they had)… and also made new relations between peole..

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