Clay Shirky Web 2.0 Keynote Says We Have Surplus Time For 2000 Wikipedias

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Media that ships without a mouse ships broken

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. – Wikipedia is for online communities what “Here Comes Lucy” was for the previous generations, said Clay Shirky, a high-tech mogul. During his speech at the Web 2.0 Expo San Francisco, delivered at Moscone Center on Wednesday afternoon, the author of Here Comes Everybody forecasts that the Internet would soon replace television.

Shirky had only 15 minutes but for a man who values time like the greatest treasure it was more than enough. The topic of his speech was, surprisingly, time. And this, according to Shirky, people have now more than ever before. As their parents and grandparents dealt with the abundance of free time by endlessly watching soap operas, the contemporary generation prefers to produce and share rather than simply receive. Wikipedia, among others, provides them with such an opportunity.

One Wikipedia project, said Shirky, means around 100 million hours of human thought. This is how long it took for online users from around the world to reedit Wikipedia entry on Pluto when astronomers had decided to downgrade it from a planet into a satellite. Impressive but Shirky left no doubt as to what activity still reigns supreme. “Television watching? 200…billion hours in the United States alone every year.” During that time, some 2,000 Wikipedia projects, in all languages, could be completed.

Nevertheless, Shirky believes that television stands no chance against the Internet. As an example, he told a story about his friend’s four-year-old daughter who in the middle of a movie went to the television screen, carefully examined it from every angle and then asked where the mouse was. “Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for,” said Shirky. People nowadays, he argued, “are reacting to the assumption that media includes consuming, producing, and sharing.”

At the end of his speech, he said that the job of both web developers and ordinary online users is to “find the mouse,” that is to provide people with the best available product. “If we carve out a little bit of a cognitive surplus that we now recognize we can deploy, could we make a good thing happen?” Shirky asked his audience. Before they could answer him, Shirky answered for them: “I’m betting the answer is ‘yes.'”

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Krzys Wasilewski, while living in Poland, completing his masters degree in International Relations, was seduced by English Literature.