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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky at the 2006 O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference
Born 1964 (age 45–46)
Columbia, Missouri
Occupation Adjunct Professor
Known for Writing

Clay Shirky (born 1964[1]) is an American writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. He teaches New Media as an adjunct professor at New York University's (NYU) graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). His courses address, among other things, the interrelated effects of the topology of social networks and technological networks, how our networks shape culture and vice-versa.[2]

He has written and been interviewed extensively about the Internet since 1996. His columns and writings have appeared in Business 2.0, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review and Wired.

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 World Wide Web. Current clients include Nokia, GBN, the U.S. Library of Congress, the Highlands Forum, the Markle Foundation and the BBC.


Early years and career

Portrait of Shirky by Joi Ito.

Shirky received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University.[3]

In the early 1990s, Shirky was vice-president of the New York chapter of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and wrote technology guides for Ziff Davis. He appeared as an expert witness on Internet culture in Shea v. Reno, a case cited in the U. S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Communications Decency Act in 1996.


Shirky has long spoken in favor of crowdsourcing and collaborative efforts online, using the phrase "the Internet runs on love" to describe the nature of such collaborations.[4] He popularized the concept of cognitive surplus, the time freed from watching television which can be enormously productive when applied to other social endeavors.

In The Long Tail, Chris Anderson calls Shirky "a prominent thinker on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies."[5]


  • The Internet by E-Mail (1994) - ISBN 1-56276-240-0
  • Voices from the Net (1995) - ISBN 1-56276-303-2
  • P2P Networking Overview (2001) - ISBN 0-596-00185-1
  • Planning for Web Services: Obstacles and Opportunities (2003) - ISBN 0-596-00364-1
  • The Best Software Writing I (2005) - ISBN 1-59059-500-9
  • Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (2008) - ISBN 978-1594201530


See also


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Clay Shirky (born 1964) is an American writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies.


  • If I had to pick the critical technology for the 20th century, the bit of social lubricant without which the wheels would've come off the whole enterprise, I'd say it was the sitcom. [...] For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before--free time.

    And what did we do with that free time? Well, mostly we spent it watching TV. [...]

    And it's only now, as we're waking up from that collective bender, that we're starting to see the cognitive surplus as an asset rather than as a crisis. We're seeing things being designed to take advantage of that surplus, to deploy it in ways more engaging than just having a TV in everybody's basement.
  • I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. [...] And her dad said, "What you doing?" And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, "Looking for the mouse."
    Here's something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here's something four-year-olds know: Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. [...]
    We're going to look at every place that a reader or a listener or a viewer or a user has been locked out, has been served up passive or a fixed or a canned experience, and ask ourselves, "If we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus and deploy it here, could we make a good thing happen?" And I'm betting the answer is yes.

External links

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