“A Screen that Ships Without A Mouse is Broken”

kinnon —  May 14, 2008 — 5 Comments

Jay Rosen is the father of the meme, The People formerly known as the Audience – from which I jumped off with The People Formerly Known as the Congregation over a year ago. (The most popular post ever from this small corner of the interwebs.) Jay teaches Journalism at NYU. His blog, PressThink, in my not humble but accurate opinion, is one of the most important feeds to read regularly in your RSS Feed Reader. Jay gets the profound horizontal changes happening in media creation and distribution and he freely shares that wisdom. (BTW – if you don’t use a feed reader, why not?)

Earlier this month, Jay pointed to Clay Shirky’s important presention at O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Conference.

Shirky, who teaches at NYU but in a different program, has a new book out: Here Comes Everybody (“The Power of Organizing Without Organizations.”)* This speech stands alone. You can read it here, but you should really watch him here— after absorbing this post. The clip is less than 15 minutes. It lets you think along with Shirky as he explains “the cognitive surplus” we developed during the age of TV.

This is a huge deposit of waking hours lived in front of the tube, a vast expanse of free time occupied for 40 years by commercial television. We’re at least starting to find the architecture of participation (Tim O’Reilly’s phrase) that would turn some of those couch-born hours into sentient activity, followed naturally by inter-activity, as in massively multiplayer games, which can lead (for some) to public works and social goods, as with “the online encyclopedia anyone can edit.”
The imagery is geological: the release of trapped deposits. He thinks we can reverse the time sink for people once marooned on the receiving end of a one-way system that didn’t care what you thought or brought to it, since it couldn’t afford the costs of interacting with you.

If you watch nothing else, watch the last five minutes of Shirky’s presentation – from which I’ve taken the title. It’s the story of a four year old’s interactive expectations. And it’s critically important in understanding the profound change that has occurred amongst The People formerly known as The Audience.

I shared it with the seminar I gave at Wycliffe’s Refresh conference yesterday. It was the highlight. You can check out some of the notes from that seminar at my rarely used blog, A Networked Conspiracy. You can even download a copy of my short book of the same name as a free pdf, if you’d like.

*I’ve ordered a copy of Shirky’s book and will blog on it when I receive it.

UPDATE: I love Amazon! I’m reading Shirky’s book (which I ordered with free delivery less than 36 hours ago) right now…and he writes as well as he presents – which is very well, indeed. (I, on the other hand and based on the previous sentence, require a remedial writing class.)



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

5 responses to “A Screen that Ships Without A Mouse is Broken”

  1. Bill, thanks for the hookup. I think he’s on to something and wonder if it will find its legs.

    One thing that got me wondering was, “What is our generations gin?” You and I are part of the generation that remembers what life was like when we had to get up to change the channel.

  2. Bill, I read the transcript of this a few days ago, via WorldChanging. The concept of cognitive surplus is brilliant. Imagine, just 1% reapplied. I can clearly envision it, in culture, in faith. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

  3. Jonathan & John,
    I’m so glad I lived in Europe from the time I was 8 ’til I was almost 13. I was without TV for those 5 years – and missed lots of the shows that others my age fully ingested. I became addicted to books, instead.

    I think what Shirky says is critically important for the church – and the when is now.

    Now back to reading his book.

  4. Hey Bill, I’m a relatively new reader and I appreciate the blog. I just tried to download the shared file of A Networked Conspiracy from the website but when I put in the password it said there were no shared files. Any ideas?

  5. Thanks Tyler. I’ve sent you a copy of the book via email and have removed the password so that it’s less of a hassle to download.


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