November 12, 2010
Subject: Empower X - Clay Shirky
From Mike Masnick, on Wednesday, November
When The News Lets Everyone Really Participate, It Changes The Way News Works
When we talk about things like "participatory journalism," or "news as a community," we've had traditional newspaper people insist they "get it." They say that they've "added comments" to their website, so it's now participatory. But that, of course, is
cargo cult participation. They look at sites that have a lively community, and they see comments, so they think "well, if we add comments, we'll have community." They don't bother to understand what actually makes journalism participatory, or what actually brings a real community together.
Mike links to a Clay Shirky November 08,
Shirky: The Shock of Inclusion and New Roles for News in the Fabric of Society
If you were in the news business in the 20th century, you worked in a kind of pipeline, where reporters and editors would gather facts and observations and turn them into stories, which were then committed to ink on paper or waves in the air, and finally consumed, at the far end of those various modes of transport, by the audience.
Shirky goes on to explain his concept:
Here's a 21st century question: What is Wikipedia made of? Or another: What is Flickr, with its billions of photos, made of? Or WordPress, the open-source blogging platform: What is WordPress made of?
The shallow answer is that Wikipedia is made of words and Flickr is made of pictures and WordPress is made of code. That's true enough, of course, but we had words and pictures and code in the 20th century, and we didn't get Wikipedia, or anything else that relied on a large pool of amateur contributors.
The deeper answer, the answer that's true of all those projects and countless more, is that they are made of coordinated voluntary participation. The participation part comes from a medium that is implicitly two-way and group-oriented, a medium that makes everyone who connects to it a potential producer of bits and not just a consumer of them.
The voluntary part comes from the staggering volume of free time available in the developed world (trillions of hours a year), coupled with human desires to do things that make us happy, not just things that pay us money.
And the coordination comes from entrepreneurs of generosity, people like the founders of Wikipedia or Flickr or WordPress who offer us opportunities to pool our free time, using this group-oriented medium, to make ourselves feel happy or engaged or satisfied by creating things together we couldn't create on our own.
Taken together, this coordinated voluntary participation is a new resource, a cognitive surplus that allows us to treat the connected world's free time and talents in aggregate, as something which, used right, can change the very idea of news -- what it is, how it is created and experienced and shared.
And here is his concluding paragraph --
however, I really encourage you to read the entire essay.
This a change so varied and robust that we need to consider retiring the word "consumer" altogether, and treat consumption as simply one behavior of many that citizens can now engage in. The kinds of changes that are coming will dwarf those we've already seen, as citizen involvement stops being a set of special cases, and becomes a core to our conception of how news can be, and should be, part of the fabric of society.
Well said, Mr. Shirky -- and welcome to
the 21st century. Having been working this problem for the past ten plus
years, I believe that I have some thoughts to contribute to the
discussion. And, as a programmer, I have some software to demo those
To be continued (I Hope)
BTW, in hopes of exciting some discussion I am
posting this page on the following web sites.
I don't provide for comments -- I do
provide an e-mail address!! (Please put a [MYWAY] in your title to get my
Thanks for your time,
Doug Skoglund - firstname.lastname@example.org