Clay Shirky

Technology Insight
11 minutes, 5.4mb, recorded 2009-09-09
Clay Shirky

In 2009, Apps For Democracy invited people to freely create applications using raw data generated by the federal government. Within 30 days there were over 40 working applications produced, and Apps For Democracy continues to be a success. However the 2005 L.A. Times wikitorial regarding the War in Iraq ended up at the opposite extreme in less than 48 hours, as debates turned into "flame wars" and indecent disrespect. 

Clay Shirky discusses the difference between these efforts to engage the public, and briefly unpacks three important points to keep in mind when attempting to harness collaborative participation: The nature of the "Contract with the Users"; the need to accomodate the unpredictability of the users; and the danger of "Heisenberg's press release".

Shirky also weaves in an experiment by Uri Gneezy and Aldo Rustichini published in The Journal of Legal Studies on how the absence of clarity or firmness of clarity affects users behavior.  

Clay Shirky divides his time between consulting, teaching, and writing on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. His consulting practice is focused on the rise of decentralized technologies such as peer-to-peer, web services, and wireless networks that provide alternatives to the wired client/server infrastructure that characterizes the Web. His current clients include Nokia, GBN, the Library of Congress, the Highlands Forum, the Markle Foundation, and the BBC.

In addition to his consulting work, Mr. Shirky is an adjunct professor in NYU's graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), where he teaches courses on the interrelated effects of social and technological network topology -- how our networks shape culture and vice-versa. His current course, Social Weather, examines the cues we use to understand group dynamics in online spaces and the possible ways of improving user interaction by redesigning our social software to better reflect the emergent properties of groups.

Mr. Shirky has written extensively about the internet since 1996. Over the years, he has had regular columns in Business 2.0, FEED, and ACM Net_Worker, and his writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review, Wired, Release 1.0, Computerworld, and IEEE Computer. He has been interviewed by Slashdot, Red Herring, Media Life, and the Economist's Ebusiness Forum and helps program the "Biological Models of Computation" track for O'Reilly's Emerging Technology conferences.



This free podcast is from our Government 2.0 Summit series.

For The Conversations Network:

  • Post-production audio engineer: Jamie Rinehart
  • Website editor: Haven Umstead
  • Series producer: Jacinta Plucinski