Hello everyone, we have reached our last week of the semester. Yay!!! It seems like it has gone by quickly when you look back at it. This week we have several readings from Shirky, a lecture video as well as a small TED Talk video from Shirky. Shirky discussed in the chapters as well as his video about about the promise, the tool and the bargain that is required for projects to find success. The promise is really just the “why” someone should join a particular cause or event. Shirky talks about how most people have many things taking up their time so the promise must provide an incentive for them that is better than what they are already doing. He suggests a strategy that would make joining the group easy, create personal value and subdivide the community. The tool is what you use to spread your message and your promise. Some tools are good but may not be good for a particular idea. He talks about how it is hard to decide which tool is the best because each circumstance is different. Twitter may be good if you want your message to be public while blogs and emails may be better in other times. I like the analogy to the tools used by a carpenter. To ask a carpenter to name the best tool he has would be hard because the use of the tool is dependent on the task. A hammer may be his most used tool but it would be ineffective at removing a screw. The bargain is more complicated and can only be done after the promise and the tool. This is like the deal that you make with your customers in order to achieve success within the project. In the video, Shirky defined cognitive surplus as a representation of the ability of the world’s population to volunteer, contribute and collaborate on large, sometimes global, projects. His examples are the Ushahidi project, the earthquakes in Haiti and in Washington DC to track snow pickup. In all of these instances, everyone involved knew about the issues at hand but no one person knew all of the information but with the help of everyone, they could map out what was happening.
We were asked to give an example of something that we have seen that would fit the description of cognitive surplus. I watch Dateline NBC pretty much every week. There is one example that stuck out to me that I always see on the show. Whenever someone is wrongfully convicted of a heinous crime like murder, someone usually creates a website or Facebook group whose sole purpose is to bring forward information about the crime to free the convicted person’s name. Recently Dateline aired an episode that showed two brothers that had been convicted of murder. They had served more than two decades in prison. They had given up all hope on ever walking free again. Long story short, through the power of the Internet, social media and numerous very strong willed people, the brothers received a new trial decades later and were released from prison. They do the same thing when the community feels that someone has gotten away with murder. Usually someone creates a website for a victim that people can post comments as a way to remember them and bring new information to light about the case. It is easy to see what the benefit of this type of website would be. An individual could get online and post something that they saw from a particular event that might be that missing piece that police have been looking for. There have been a few examples on the show of how this has actually worked. I would definitely lend my time and information to this type of site if I felt I could help bring out the truth. This example follows the same pattern as Shirky describes with his cognitive surplus definition. This type of site would offer a promise, tool and a bargain. I like how Shirky spoke about technology having a communal value and a civic value. Communal value is something that a site like Flickr would have. You can get on there and enjoy the pictures. A site devoted to gathering information to help someone who has been wrongly convicted has civic value. It is not just being enjoyed by the people using it at the moment, it is helping make the world (or at least the area) a better place. It has been fun having class with you all. See you down the road. -Derek