Cognitive Surplus

Here_comes_everybody NYU Professor Clay Shirky asks, "What are you doing with your Cognitive Surplus?"

"I was being interviewed by a TV producer to see whether I
should be on their show, and she asked me, "What are you
seeing out there that’s interesting?"

I started
telling her about the Wikipedia
article on Pluto. You may remember that Pluto got kicked out of the
planet club a couple of years ago, so all of a sudden there was all of
this activity on Wikipedia. The talk pages light up, people
are editing the article like mad, and the whole community is in an
ruckus–"How should we characterize this change in Pluto’s status?" And
a little bit
at a time they move the article–fighting offstage all the
while–from, "Pluto is the ninth
," to "Pluto is an odd-shaped rock with an odd-shaped
orbit at the edge of the solar system

I tell her all this stuff, and I think, "Okay, we’re going to
have a conversation about authority or social construction or
."  That wasn’t her question.  She heard this story and
she shook her head and said, "Where do people find the time?"
That was her question.  And I just kind of snapped.  And I said, "No
one who works in TV gets to ask that question.  You know where the
time comes from. It comes from the cognitive surplus you’ve been
masking for 50 years

So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project–every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in–that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, "Where do they find the time?" when they’re looking at things like Wikipedia don’t understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that’s finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

Now, the interesting thing about a surplus like that is that society doesn’t know what to do with it at first–hence the gin, hence the sitcoms. Because if people knew what to do with a surplus with reference to the existing social institutions, then it wouldn’t be a surplus, would it? It’s precisely when no one has any idea how to deploy something that people have to start experimenting with it, in order for the surplus to get integrated, and the course of that integration can transform society.

The early phase for taking advantage of this cognitive surplus, the phase I think we’re still in, is all special cases. The physics of participation is much more like the physics of weather than it is like the physics of gravity. We know all the forces that combine to make these kinds of things work: there’s an interesting community over here, there’s an interesting sharing model over there, those people are collaborating on open source software. But despite knowing the inputs, we can’t predict the outputs yet because there’s so much complexity."

Fascinating stuff . . .


Gin, Television, and Social Surplus 
Clay Shirky   
Web 2.0 conference, April 23, 2008

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Friday Evening Jazz: Dexter Gordon

FNJ has a guest DJ tonite: BondDaddy is in the house!

Dexter Gordon is one of the greatest tenor sax players. He had a strong tone and incredible sense of melody. Some players like Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson had a slippery sense of time; their phrases speed up and slow down, moving within the rythm section’s accompaniment. Not Dexter. Dex’s time was rock solid, never wavering. The rythm section had to accompany his time.

Our_man_in_parisHis playing is incredibly melodic, easily followed by the listener. Ideas naturally morphed from one to the other, always following a logical pattern. However, he was also able to surprise listeners with a run into upper chordal extensions.

His playing provides a logical link between Parker and Coltrane. Dex used many ideas from Parker, but played them with a tone that was deep, bold and soulful.  His tone provides the link to Coltrane, who also favored a deep and rich tenor tone.

Gordon swung — and swung hard. If your feet are not tapping within 8 bars of his starting to play, you’re just not listening.

Our Man in Paris:
This be-bop session is a meeting between three of the most influential
musicians of the forties. The rhythms crackle, the solos fly; Our Man
In Paris is essential Dexter. A nice compilation of standards.

HomecomingHomecoming: Live at the Village Vanguard. Dex lived in Amsterdam for about 10 years, and this was the album be made when he came back. Very cool set. Woody Shaw is on Trumpet, and the two work really well together. THis is Dexter at the very top of his game (and probably one of the top 25 live jazz albums of all time).

He also starred in the Round Midnight, probably the best jazz movie ever made

Go:  Its been widely reported Gordon himself considered this his greatest achievement. Brimming with conviction and poise, Gordon’s gentle-giant sax carries itself with a sort of graceful edge that is difficult to emulate. Never has anyone made the diminished scale sound so musical.


Ballads: This is a compilation of his ballads (duh), and he could play just beautifully on these. Gordon delivers his almost sleepy and smoke-filled solos with real grace. Some of the most romantic playing you will every hear.



Videos after the jump


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