Saturday, June 20, 2009

TED talk - Clay Shirky on Media today

In a recent TED talk (TED releases amazingly informative videos of their conferences everyday on their site Clay Shirky discusses the power of the vast changes we’ve seen in our media. In his own words, we’re experiencing the “largest increase in expressive capability in human history”. So what? Well, there are a number of implications to this paradigm shift.

Information becomes freely available. Consumers become producers. New uses for existing technology emerge. The conversation, the information, becomes global, social, ubiquitous and cheap. No longer is it a one-way dialogue between media producers and media consumers. The Internet has provided a means of collaboration, and a means to share creativity freely and easily. The potential for growth in its application seems boundless. The creators of Twitter (Evan Willams gave a TED talk as well) worked on the software as a side project, on a gut feeling. They had no idea what it would be used for, or where the users would see opportunities to use it. Twitter has been wildly successfully thanks to the innovation of its users, and the wise decision of Twitter to create an empowering product (allowing third party’s to create different apps for Twitter).

While Clay does not explicitly describe the ways big business must change to survive, he is convinced that “the old way of doing things has gone, never to return.” The kind of change Clay describes happening to our media allows for fresh new ideas or old ideas that previously never had a voice, to be heard and discussed. The Zeitgeist Movement and The Venus Project that it supports, rely on this open exchange of ideas to awaken the public to the possibilities of a better future for everyone.

The most exciting implication is the evidence for an incentive other than a profit motive. These open-source models display levels of efficiency unheard of in typical business models that hire employees to do all the work. What provides incentive to people in an open-source model? Generosity and altruism are great motivators for some, but most find that contributing of their own volition to something they care about is reason enough. This is true freedom. How might you contribute?