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Who's in the Video

Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky is a writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. He is an adjunct professor at New York University's graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program[…]

The primary value of participation is the positive sense of self that comes from personal and public action.

Question: How do we measure the value of cognitive surplus?
 rn
Clay Shirky:  The most immediate value from the rncognitive surplus comes from satisfying the intrinsic desires.  Right?  rnThe kind of things that we’re motivated to do that are different from, rn“My boss told me so,” or “This is what I’m paid to do.”  And they’re rnboth personal and social motivations.  Intrinsic motivations have both rnpersonal and social components.  Personal motivations tend to be rnautonomy and competence.  Right?   The idea that I am the author of my rnown actions, or that I’m good at something.  Social motivations tend to rnbe membership and generosity.  I am part of a like-minded group that rnrecognizes me and accepts me as a member, or my activities are creating rnbenefits for other people who are grateful for the work that I’ve done. rn
 
So, the primary value driving all of this stuff is really rnsome positive sense of self that comes from participation and public rnaction, whether it’s personal or social. As long as enough people want rnto get some of that value out of uploading photos to Flicker, you know, rnuploading videos to YouTube, uploading pictures of cats to rnICanHasCheezburger, those aggregations... those aggregations will do rnwell.  Downstream from that, there’s a whole range of questions about rnvalue.  Right? 
 
So, the value of ICanHasCheezburger.com was rnthe purveyor of LOLCats, of the pictures of cute cats with cute rncaptions, completely slight, right?  Not world-changing, not really rndoing much other than giving people something to laugh at a coffee rnbreak. 
 
The value of Wikipedia?  You know, in less than 10 rnyears has become the most important reference work in the English rnlanguage.  So, on that range—the range of kind of socio-utility rndownstream of the participants—you’ve got everything from really nothingrn more than a bit of fun on a work day to reshaped people’s sense of rnwhat’s possible.

Recorded on May 26, 2010
Interviewed by Victoria Brown