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Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age [Kindle Edition]

Clay Shirky
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

The author of the breakout hit Here Comes Everybody reveals how new technology is changing us for the better.

In his bestselling Here Comes Everybody, Internet guru Clay Shirky provided readers with a much-needed primer for the digital age. Now, with Cognitive Surplus, he reveals how new digital technology is unleashing a torrent of creative production that will transform our world. For the first time, people are embracing new media that allow them to pool their efforts at vanishingly low cost. The results of this aggregated effort range from mind-expanding reference tools like Wikipedia, which allows Kenyans to report acts of violence in real time. Cognitive Surplus explores what's possible when people unite to use their intellect, energy, and time for the greater good.

Editorial Reviews


"An informed look at the social impact of the Internet." ---Kirkus


Lucid and assured ... the most amazing fact about Shirky's incisive manual for building a better world is this: it's just possible that everything he promises may be true Guardian Shirky is the best chronicler we have of the unfolding cultural revolution brought on by the web New Statesman

Product Details

  • File Size: 335 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0143119583
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 10, 2010)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003NX75HC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,802 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
156 of 161 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Clay Shirky captured the ethos of social media with his book "Here comes everybody." He follows that book up with one that concentrates on the fundamentals of turning our cognitive surplus into value. Cognitive Surplus provides a compelling and clear description of the fundamentals of social media and collaboration as well providing principles that are guiding developments and innovation in this space.

There are many books out there that either describe the social media phenomenon or profess to provide a `recipe' for success. Neither of these approaches can provide you with the insight needed to effectively experiment and deploy social media for the simple reason that social media is changing too fast.

The book is organized into seven chapters that outline a complete way of thinking about social media.

Chapter 1: Gin, Television and Cognitive Surplus sets the context of social change and evolution of free time. This chapter sets the context for the rest of the story giving you the perspective to think through the issues.

Chapter 2: Means discusses the transition of the means of production from one of scarcity controlled by professionals to abundance and the participation of amateurs.

Chapter 3: Motive captures the essence of the reasons why people contribute their time, talent and attention to collective action. Here Shirky talks about issues of autonomy, competence, generosity and sharing.

Chapter 4: Opportunity recognizes the importance of creating ways of taking advantage of group participation. This chapter contains discussions of behavioral economics and the situations which generates group participation.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Use Social Connectivity to Change the World June 29, 2010
By Alycat
My TIVO hates Clay Shirky. In his piercing new book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age Shirky asserts that the technological revolution has enabled us to work together to conquer challenges big and small, if we'd just watch less TV and commit to participating in something other than our own mental decay.

TV watching on a per capita basis has increased for 50 years in a row, and that staggering amount of time has come largely at the expense of human connectedness and innovation. Before TV we entertained ourselves by interacting, making and doing, whether it was paper airplanes, a game of Yahtzee, or family harmonica night.

But at least in places with electricity, we've largely retreated into our heads, with the flicker of TV as the endless soundtrack.

But all is not lost, if you just commit to turning away from Starsky & Hutch, and toward the opportunities for greater good.

In this meticulously researched book, Shirky suggests that the historical barriers to collaboration (principally time, expense, and the ability to easily find like-minded people) have been largely stripped away, enabling us to make better use of the unused brain cells (our cognitive surplus) made dormant by TV addiction.

The book includes several compelling examples of groups creating and maintaining impressive online collaborations, without a profit motive in sight. Harnessing the power of the collective (crowdsourcing for social change) is a thread woven throughout Cognitive Surplus, and its viability requires two of Shirky's assertions to be accurate.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I often find Shirkey to clearly summarize what everyone is thinking of around the evolution of (social) media, but this time he only made half of the book excellent. The book has two parts:

1. Can be summarized well in the quote "the wiring of humanity lets us treat free time as a shared global resource, and lets us design new kinds of participation and sharing that take advantage of that resource". Great points, but in fact pretty much what was between the lines in Here Comes Everybody.

2. a How-to-use-the-cognitive-surplus-of-the-planet-guide - some great points, but this format does not suit the standards Shirkeyisms. It is way too much of a list of ideas, some around game mechanics (intrinsic motivations of people - think Foursquare/Gowalla), some around group dynamics and external motivations (think Facebook), and some just repeats of how new media (if you must say it, say "social media") is different than old media, summarized well by the quote: "intimacy trumps skill. For similar reasons, I sing "Happy Birthday" to my children, even with my terrible singing voice, not because I can do a better job than Placido Domingo or Lyle Lovett, but because those talented gentlemen do not love my children as I do. There are times, in other words, when doing things badly, with and for one another, beats having them done well on our behalf by professionals".

I wish Shirkey would have developed the book as two separate books.
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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cancel your cable subscription. June 27, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although it is a very good topic, I think it could have been written in article form instead of a book. He has many different examples of how the internet has changed social media as a whole but basically comes to the same conclusion with every example. "Instead of consuming media we can now produce and consume."

The first chapter is very illuminating as Shirky takes you through London at the very start of the industrial revolution. Most of the citizens of London were commuting from the suburbs to the city for work. To meld into this new social setting and lifestyle they drank gin. A lot of gin. This was their "social lubrication" to get through life in dirty, polluted, new city life. They were using their free time to drink. 8 hours of work, 8 hours of drinking, and 8 hours of sleeping.

For the past 50 years, post-industrial revolution; post war era, the educated population of the world has been using most of their free time to consume television. This 8 hours of work, 8 hours of TV, and 8 hours of sleep has been our social lubrication and use of most free time. Over 1 trillion hours of TV is watched per year when it could be used for other, more productive activities.

This is where the rest of the book takes off with example after example of how the internet has given ordinary people the opportunities to speak back to the media and government. With camera phones being owned by millions of people, anyone can take a picture or video of anything they are near and post it on the web.

There really are many good examples of how new technologies have given the lay man the opportunity to 'be heard' or produce media that they otherwise would not have been able to. But as I said earlier he always comes to the same conclusion after each example.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Strictly okay
Good read - fairly conventional ideas though harped on at great length.
Published 2 days ago by Ankur Kothari
5.0 out of 5 stars this is a great and quick read
If you want to get excited about the future, this is a great and quick read.
Published 1 month ago by Richard Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars ideas and opportunities
plenty of thought-provoking ideas, different ways at looking at what we're doing with our time. Read it, you'll be glad yo udid.
Published 4 months ago by Cindy Tonkin
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed This Thoroughly
This guy always has good stuff to say.

This book is a remarkably human exploration of how we think, and what we do with our free time, as well as suggesting ways to... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Little Green Viper
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Your er... Father's Facebook
Before encountering Clay Shirky, I thought that social media was good for little more than screwing around; people shared photos of things like Keyboard Cat online, but the real... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Chad Frisk
4.0 out of 5 stars worth the time.
It was worth the time for those interested in the future of interactive media and the involvement of social action.
Published 9 months ago by Jeffrey B. Kilberg
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
This is one of the best books I have read in the last few years. It has helped me view the world in a different way. I understand the value in the crowd.
Published 10 months ago by Michael Jacobs
5.0 out of 5 stars education
I have this book on my kindle fire which is a wonderful tool that I use while going to college.
Published 11 months ago by Jeanne Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking and compelling
This is a clever and well written book that makes an excellent case for how social media has changed our world and our interactions with it. A great read!
Published 11 months ago by Danielle R.
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful Book About Social Collaboration
This is a very insightful book if you want to understand the potential in social collaboration and user-created media. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Elizabeth Ann
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More About the Author

Clay Shirky teaches at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University, where he researches the interrelated effects of our social and technological networks. He has consulted with a variety of groups working on network design, including Nokia, the BBC, Newscorp, Microsoft, BP, Global Business Network, the Library of Congress, the U.S. Navy, the Libyan government, and Lego(r). His writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Times (of London), Harvard Business Review, Business 2.0, and Wired.

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