Thursday, March 27, 2014

Personal Motivation Meets Collaborative Production- Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky's article “Personal Motivation Meets Collaborative Production” can be found in his book, entitled Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organzing Without Organizations. The book was published in 2008 with, according to its own Wikipedia page, the intent of exploring “the effect of the Internet of modern group dynamics and organization” (Here Comes Everybody, According to his New York University faculty profile, Shirky currently holds a joint position at NYU as a professor in the Interactive Telecommunications Program and the Distinguished Writer in Residence at the journalism school. Shirky has published two books on social media (Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age), as well as a blog where he writes about current internet related topics (Faculty Profile).

In this chapter of his book, Shirky focuses on Wikipedia; how it began and expanded, how it currently is able to function, and what sociological implications its existence has. Shirky's article leans more towards the explanatory side, asking and answering questions about how a website with no institutional structure or paid employees can grow to size and quality of Wikipedia. He uses social theories, like the power law distribution, to show how Wikipedia works. The power law distribution is the concept that there is a much larger between the 1st and 2nd contributors than there is between the 2nd and 3rd contributors, meaning that there is no average or representative contributor to a social site like Wikipedia. I would postulate that the Shirky's main thesis comes out in the final part of his article, where he argues that Wikipedia is successful because the majority of people care about keeping it relevant and useful. If this attitude shifts, Wikipedia will quickly become nonfunctional. I think the explanatory nature of the chapter was largely due to the broad audience Shirky was addressing. It seemed like he was writing the book for everyone with a general interest in learning more about technology. In my opinion, anyone who wanted to learn more about the internet and its impact on social behavior would be the audience for this book.

Here Comes Everybody was reviewed very well; it was ranked four out of five stars on Google books, Amazon, and Good Reads. Reviewers, such as The Independent, applauded the messages of open access, internet activism, and the social expansion the book drew out (Kane). According to an ARS technica book review, the book is so popular because it is applicable for a general audience, as it is about “what happens when ordinary, non-geeky people begin to take "boring" technology for granted and integrate it into their day-to-day lives” (Lee). I was also able to find a couple of articles which discussed the chapter we read. One was a blogger working his way through the book, who critiqued the chapter for its lack of definitive examples and wondered how Nupedia would function differently or better than (Schwartz). The other site I found interesting was a NYU website which summarized the website; in the comment sections, several students stated whether they “trusted” Wikipedia for scholarly research, a topic Shirky largely ignores in the chapter I think the book helped raise a lot of social questions about the internet, a fact widely appreciated by its audience.

"Faculty Profile." Clay Shirky » Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. New York University, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

"Here Comes Everybody." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2014. <>.

Kane, Pat. "Here Comes Everybody, by Clay Shirky. We-Think, by Charles Leadbeater: On the Road to Wikitopia." The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 21 Mar. 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2014. < entertainment/books/reviews/here-comes-everybody-by-clay-shirky-wethink-by-charles- leadbeater-798702.html>.

Lee, Timothy. "ArsTechnica." Ars Technica. Ars Technica, 3 Apr. 2008. Web. 27 Mar. 2014. < review-2008-04-1/2/>.

Schwartz, Joel A. "A Pursuit of Wisdom – Joel A. Schwartz." A Pursuit of Wisdom. N.p., 17 Sept. 2010. Web. 26 Mar. 2014. < motivation-meets-collaborative-production/>.

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