Thank You Clay Shirky’s Mom

There is a great interview in the Guardian (which by the way, you can read for free online…)

Some interesting highlights (apart from the fact that Shirky is convinced that the paywall for online news is going to fail) include the fact that he didn’t have a computer till age 28 and when he got one it was his mother who taught him about the internet. He’s 46 now so doing the math suggests that lesson was somewhere around 1992 (Thank YOU, Clay’s Mom  – you done real good!)

As always, Shirky is both optimistic and realistic about technology and all the things people do with it. What’s particularly refreshing about this article is that the interviewer, Decca Aitkenhead, has captured his viewpoints in a light, skeptical-but-willing-to-reconsider, style of writing.

Here’s a quote directly from Shirky, “if the new technology creates a new behaviour, it’s because it was allowing motivations that were previously locked out. These tools we now have allow for new behaviours – but they don’t cause them.”

And here’s one from Aitkenhead, “Had I never been online before, and had just read his book, I’d probably be so inspired by his account of the creative and collaborative instincts of the online community, I’d be rushing to log on. But if I started out on, say, the Guardian’s Comment is free site, the sheer nastiness of many of the commenters would floor me like a train. If the web has unlocked all this human potential for generosity and sharing, how come the people using it are so horrible to each other?”

Shirky’s answer to the question of human ‘horribleness’, in my opinion (and I know there are zillions who would agree with me), hits just the right note of compassion for the way people are and always have been (mean when anonymous), and the way that technology reveals this. And he suggests that we have a challenge that might lead to the implementation of social norms to allow our considerate sides to shine through.


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