Clay Shirky is a writer, consultant, teacher and provocative new voice on all things Internet; social networks, media, economics, culture, connected communities and the open-source movement. A captivating, highly informative and eloquent speaker who sees new technologies as a new way of getting things done in business, science, the arts and elsewhere; an alternative to centralized and institutional structures, which he sees as self-limiting.
He is an adjunct professor at New York University (NYU) in their graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program, where he teaches courses on the interrelationships of social and technological networks, particularly how they shape culture and vice-versa.
He consults to a variety of organizations on network technologies, and is an acknowledged expert on collaboration tools, social networks, peer-to-peer sharing, collaborative filtering, and Open Source development.
Clay has spoken and written extensively on the Internet since 1996, with regular columns in Business 2.0, FEED, OpenP2P.com and his own shirky.com blogsite. He has appeared in The New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review, and others.
In his book, “Here Comes Everybody”, Clay explores how organizations and industries are being upended by open networks, collaboration, and user appropriation of content production and dissemination.
Here Comes Everybody
Ten years ago, the big realization was a perceptual migration from atoms to bits, from the world of the physical to the world of information. This idea, best expounded by Nicholas Negroponte in Being Digital, alerted the world to the shift to the information economy. Now, another kind of digital revolution is taking hold. Networked tools are allowing groups to form and collaborate without any of the traditional friction that comes from managing the efforts of multitudes. The source of this revolution is not the computer but the connections between them, as our social networks fuse with our technological ones. Compared to the shift to digital information, this change is more painful for some people to embrace, even to contemplate, because it challenges deeply held assumptions about how society does or should work. We’re witnessing nothing less than the migration from an information economy based on the work of the individual mind to new forms of collective intelligence and collective effort, and it represents, for good or for bad, a fundamental change in the way our society — all modern societies, in fact — is structured. Clay illustrates these fundamental forces at work, and how they will change the world’s organizations and, ultimately, ourselves.
Failure for (Near) Free
In the emerging world of web-based collaboration and experimentation, organizations are learning that loosely coordinated groups may be the best way to work on large, complicated undertakings. The open source software industry is the most visible demonstration of this phenomenon, but collaborative networks are changing the face of the media and entertainment, outsourcing, and all technology-based industries. Clay Shirky, a pioneering researcher on collaborative tools, shows how these networks have significant and irreversible advantages over traditional business organizations, and what companies can do to capitalize on them– e.g. by lowering to (near) zero the cost of project failure.
Digital Might vs Digital Rights
A harbinger of how the media world is contending with the power of digital manipulation and collaboration may well be seen in the esoteric world of anime, the Japanese animated movies with hardcore fans in the US and Europe. Viewers now translate, sub-title and annotate these films for Western audiences, and curiously: the writers aren’t paid, no one asked them to do it, and they don’t belong to any organization. Clay paints a picture of a future disintermediated media business, where people provision, adapt and reuse the product for themselves. These dislocations will reverberate and reshape the business for many years to come, he contends, with one certainty: the efforts of the entertainment industry to make it harder to find and use its products perversely motivate the digital denizens to upturn these barriers and create out-of-system alternatives.
“Shirky…is one of the handful of people with justifiable claim to the digerati moniker. He’s become a consistently prescient voice on networks, social software, and technology’s effects on society.”