Final Thoughts on Shirky


How would you rate this book on a scale from 1-5, with 1 being “horrible!” and 5 being “amazing!” ?
What are the three most important things you learned from (or read about in) _Cognitive Surplus_? 
What are three things you disagree with?
Would you recommend this book to people interested in technology and culture? Why or why not?


I didn’t think that I would like this book. I am not much for non-fiction, when I read it is to escape my world. I was really surprised that I enjoyed this book as much as I did. I am supposed to write the three most important things I learned through this book-but my favorite parts of this book are all the history involved in it. The coming of the printing press could be likened to the beginning of our computer age. The beginnings of the scientific method and its effect on modern-day science even today-these things sparked my interest in reading the rest of the book. I give the book a 4, only because I spent a bit of time confused each chapter…until I sat and digested the book a bit.

I didn’t find my self disagreeing with the book much at all. I still want a professional to do my brain surgery-and given the choice I will pick encyclopedia Britannica over Wikipedia any day, lol. I will, of course, research my little brains out in the mean time. I most likely would try to see multiple medical professionals over internet research. A mind is a terrible thing to waste!

I would recommend this book to people though, and not just to those into tech and culture. I think people in business could use it as well. It has really good insights into people as a whole. It is really well written and clear. Usually books on technology read like stereo instructions written in Japanese-I don’t get them. I also think that this book would be a good one for high school history classes to tackle. It is short and gives a lot of real world effects for historical actions. It is even laugh out loud funny in some spots.


About Talking Points

  • The general subject/idea of the blog. Is it politics? Journalism? Media?
  • The political slant of the blog (if you can detect one).  Right? Left? Moderate? Libertarian? Rastafarian? Communist?
  • Does the blog cite sources for their information?
  • How would you compare the information in the blog to your local newspaper?
  • What you didn’t like
  • Include a link to a particular post (or more) you felt was particularly interesting, funny, moving, angering, poorly written, well written, biased, or informativtal



Talking Points Memo is both a journalism blog and a political blog that is slanted left. In fact it is pretty much the polar opposite of Moonbattery. While the quality of the writing and reporting is better, I don’t really lean that direction politically. As a result I couldn’t just find a couple of articles that ticked me off…most did. I am not the most political of people but my leanings are far more conservative then liberal. I didn’t like the way the site paints most conservatives as gun toting bible thumpers (just my opinion).

I can’t fault the quality of writing though. The gentleman that started the site is a journalist and a historian (according to his wikipedia page:


Here is a link to a recent article that ticked me off.


Here we go again….

I seem to be on a role today with the rape stories. This one is from the good ole U.S of A. Two teens are accused of assaulting a young lady at two separate parties while she was passed out. The electronic devices of all involved were confiscated by police and as a result the young men were arrested and charged.

Both the prosecutors and the defense attorneys are going to be using evidence from these electronic devices to try and prove their cases. This really couldn’t have happened ten years ago. I think it is going to be a really interesting (if tragic) case to follow. The case takes he said-she said to another level because now we have the actual words of those involved. It is going to be hard to dispute something written and put into the world via Twitter or Facebook.

Here is the story:

I think that the justice system is going to be inundated with cases that are going to use social media as evidence. I also think new laws will have to be drafted to cover what is admissible in court. Police departments are watching social media sites to predict gang activity and, judging from the idiot who bragged on Twitter that he killed someone, seems like a really good idea. It seems like the justice system learned something from the “flash mob” phenomena. I like it.

What the heck!!!!

We have been talking about the effect that social media and technology has had on the world. This morning while having my coffee I was checking out the stories on my Yahoo home page and came across the story of a girl in India who was beaten and gang raped to death on a bus in New Delhi. A prominent yogi had this to say about the attack:

“Guilt is not one-sided,” the guru, Asaram Bapu, told followers this week, adding that if the student had pleaded with her six attackers in God’s name, and told them she was of the “weaker sex”, they would have relented.”

I could list everything wrong with that statement, but I am pretty sure that I am not the only one who sees the stupidity judging from the world-wide outrage that his opinion sparked. They were burning the guy in effigy in near his offices in India. I wish I could say I was surprised that this attitude still exists in 2013-but I am not. Apparently, many people in India and around the world feel that he is correct.

The point of this whole post is this: if we were not so interconnected via social media and the internet this woman’s death would have been swept under the carpet and she would have went to the grave being blamed for her death. The internet gave this story legs and I think that those of us who feel that the yogi is a moron outnumber those who think a short skirt is an invitation to rape. Because we are so connected, many people in India and around the world are being forced to change their views (or at least examine them) because there are more of us who realize that a  woman’s clothing does not give a man the right to attack her. She could be dressed in Saran Wrap and that still is not an excuse to gang rape her.

The status quo is no longer OK.  I think that is fantastic!

To read the whole story:

8.5 Cognitive Surplus Chapter 2

Chapter 2 blog prompts: One of Shirky’s points is that the idea of a separation between “cyberspace” and the “real world” is increasingly becoming irrelevant– the real and virtual worlds are becoming one. Do you see this happening in your life or people you know? If so, what are some of the characteristics of this coming together? If not, do you think Shirky is wrong or overstating the case and why? When Shirky talks about the current revolution that is similar to the revolution of the printing press– giving many more the means to make and publish– he notes that it is similar but has significant differences. What are some of those differences? How does the idea of operating in a culture of “abundance” differ from once of “scarcity?” Shirky notes that the idea of citizen reporters and journalists have changed the way we find out about news and events, using the London subway bombings as an example. The web has become a source of news that outpaces traditional media: is this a good thing? Where do you go for news that is happening right now as opposed to a week ago (or even yesterday)?


I do think that the separation between “cyberspace” and the “real world” is becoming less relevant, but I do not believe the worlds are becoming one. I can see the characteristics of the “coming together”-I am a gamer after all!  I can talk to someone in another country that I am supposed to not like while we blow up bad people together online! A less tongue in cheek example would be how we can now track different viruses planet wide because we are connected to hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and researchers everywhere. Therefore, I understand his statements.  Shirky’s example of the Pickup Pal service is just a small example of how people are using the Internet to make things better. In that, way I can see the line between “real” and “cyberspace” fading a bit.

I was intrigued by the idea of cyberspace being the new printing press. I spent a couple of days digesting that section of the chapter trying to find other things in history that also facilitated that type of upheaval. If I remember my history right, the invention of the press was the precursor to all sorts of unrest and innovation. Control was leaving those who held all the information to those who could now access information and make their own decisions on how to react to the knowledge.  I was thinking it was a lot like the early trade routes. I learned in a recent history class that what we know as globalization started a few hundreds of years ago when traders began their exploration of the world and new cultures. Trade routes established access to new cultures that dragged many a country kicking and screaming out of their dark ages. The internet is a lot like that as well. Where we used to be transported to places in books, we can witness things with just a few well-placed clicks. People were brought together by technology (telegraph, telephone, television, autos) and separation by great distance is slowly becoming outdated. I can talk to my aunts in Texas on Skype if I want to see them, I do not have to hop on a plane. The internet is just the latest in a long line of “get together” technology-at least that is my take on it. If I were to name a difference it would be that the risk that printers had to take on new work as opposed to just printing the tried and true (Aristotle, the Bible…) is no longer there. I can put whatever I want in my blog. Of course that means the quality might not be very great, but it is still my form of new expression. Therefore, I guess I would have to consider it creating for the act alone, not thinking to receive anything but a satisfaction that I put something on the screen.

The ideas of abundance and scarcity are still a bit foggy for me. As a consumer I understand the idea that if there is not a lot of something the price goes up. In Shirky’s book, he says that while the quality of what is published goes down the tradeoff of the ability for the public to have a hand in the process of creating is a fair trade off. It has led to experimentation across the board!  My favorite example of this is the month long Nano Wrimo writing challenge that happens every year! I have yet to finish 50000 words but I give it a go every year! For all the schlock that is written, the occasional author is “discovered” (here is a list people who got their Nano Wrimo books published: I also love hearing about people discovered because of YouTube and the like.

Citizen reporters and journalists can pose a problem. I mentioned the tragedy in Connecticut in my last blog. The people feeding information to the professional reporters were all sure they had the correct information and for the most part, they were horribly wrong. That poor guy not only lost his mother and brother, he was vilified for an act he did not commit-all over the internet. I think that while the advent of smart phones and other sorts of mobile picture and video taking devices has been great for information as a whole, we sometimes have too much of a good thing. In certain instances, we need a bit of scarcity.

I do have friends that have escaped into the internet and sort forgot to come back. It is easy to do because you can be anyone online. In general, though I think most people are well informed enough to be able to sort through the obvious pitfalls. (I am an optimist at heart.) I have a close friend who lives for Facebook (and has the car accident reports to prove she is addicted to texting and tweeting while driving….) and Twitter and her online “following.” She would rather sit in front of her keyboard tapping away all night than go to a movie. I believe it can be a double-edged sword, like anything else. On the other hand, there is my mother who hates her cell phone and only uses her computer to play solitaire and enter Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes. I think it is all a matter of degree!

I get my news from my local news station mostly. I do surf online for some things like my hometown newspaper. I do look online if I am curious about something, but for the most part, I save my newsgathering for 6 and 10! I will also go to my local stations webpage.

6.5 Social Media and Revolution

  • Who do you think is “right” about social media’s role: Shirky? Gladwell? Both? And why?
  • How much do you think technology matters when it comes to politics in general and revolutionary change in particular? Do you think the revolution in Tunisia would have happened without social media? How about Egypt?
  • Are there potential “dark sides” or problems with the role social media is playing? What are they?

I believe that Gladwell makes a couple of very valid points, the best of these is the observation that protesting via social media does not lend itself to being a very “low risk” activisim. I think  that he poo poos too much though. That a person lends a very little amount to a protest if he/she is only participating via Twitter and other social media is not the key here-it is that they are participating. Can you imagine the type of outcry that would have occurred had our kind of social media been around during the Civil Rights Movement? The way that Gladwell makes it sound is that, unless you are willing to be beaten or killed, your support (or lack there of) means nothing. If you don’t make a significant contribution in the way of blood sweat and tears you invalidate the whole process.

I do not for one minute think that social media is the end all-be all of communication and activism, but I do believe that people without a voice in public are sometimes willing to be warriors when they can stay safe-not pretty or redeeming really, but true. Politics as usual ended with the advent of the president being on TV, Twitter and Facebook and the rest are just a continuation of that. The fact that everyone seems to have a portable video maker on their phones just means that some people get caught with more than their hand in the cookie jar. That being said, I think the revolution in Tunisia and Egypt would have happened with or without social media as we know it. The boiling point had been reached in those areas. What social media and the internet did was give the protests/revolution a wider audience. It is hard to hide social injustice when it is “caught on tape.” Was it a tool in the previously mentioned places? Undoubtedly. Did it drive the protests/revolutions? Probably not in the way we would like to think. And I disagree with Gladwell’s assertions that it would not be possible to have a hierarchical base via social media. Has the man never seen a full blown flash mob? You get a hundred people that don’t really know each other to the same place and get them to dance cohesively and then tell me that large numbers of people cannot be mobilized via text message! I am also insulted by his assumption that I think of all the people I know on Facebook are my true friends. I am certainly aware, as I am sure most people are, that my acquaintances are just that. I am also very aware that not everything posted on the Internet is the absolute truth!

Are there dangerous, dark areas to this whole revolution? Of course! A person would be really silly to believe everything that is tweeted or to jump to conclusions before all the facts are in! A really sad example happened during the recent coverage of the shootings at Sandy Hooks. Before the investigation had even gotten off the ground, the shooters older brother was tagged as the killer. In a matter of minutes there were bogus Facebook pages, twitter accounts and much more. That poor guy had to endure death threats, the loss of his mother and, for better or worse, the death of a brother. Much of the bogus information was gleaned from Facebook and Twitter and leaked to the media. Years ago we would have been waiting for information as the investigation progressed. The police would not have been spending time trying to correct bogus information that had popped up in the mainstream media because some idiot sent a text!

Social media is like any other tool, it is all in how we use it.

Cognitive Surplus Chapter 1 Blog

I am an avid TV watcher. I have certain shows that I watch daily ( Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson) and weekly (NCIS, CASTLE, BONES, Big Bang Theory).  All my shows are recorded weekly on the DVR for my husband to watch when he comes home off the road. My son is autistic and the television is one of his “things”. He watches entirely too much TV-but his favorite shows are all learning shows. My nine-year-old daughter has a TV hooked up to Dish Network and the DVR and she has favorite shows we tape weekly. Overall, we watch a lot of TV. The television is my backdrop for the day-the thing is my background noise. The house is too quiet without the “sqawkbox”. I am also a gamer-mostly RPGs like Skyrim and Final Fantasy XIII. My family is convinced that I need a twelve-step program for my Skyrim addiction. As much TV as I watch I also read a lot! My kids also have picked up my love of books.


I do not participate in any web sites except for Facebook. I do have a few blogs out there-but they would not be appropriate for class! I do have notes on Facebook that would qualify as creative contributions, but I think that writing this essay is also a creative outlet. I would have loved to be an author! I wanted to try NanoWrimo ( year, but I just did not have time with school and my other obligations (Girl Scouts and PTA). I love Nano’s whole premise-write anything good or bad just to do it! I made it to 25000 words one year but had some issues with my children (is not that always the way?) and did not get to finish.


I think I understand the meaning of “more is different” to a point. More people with more access will equal more interactions than if you are just on the passive end-which is to say that sitting on the couch watching the news is less interactive than taking a video of the news-making incident and posting it online. I also liked the pizza analogy when the author said “…with a large enough crowd, unpredictable events become predictable.” (p. 24 Cognitive Surplus) I think that one phrase says so much!  When the “crowd” is global, how can anything be unpredictable?


I am buying the idea that contributing to sites like LOLCATS is better than sitting on the couch but I am surprised that he did not mention, in this chapter at least, how TV has also become interactive. Television programs like The Voice, Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, and America’s got Talent take sitting on the couch and watching television to a different level. You are able to make decisions that affect the show. I think television has concluded that its days are numbered if it does not become more like social media. Now days you can tweet about your favorite programs, sometimes as you are watching them. Shows like A&E’s Walking Dead have a television show after each new episode that viewers can text or tweet questions to, to be answered by actors/producers/writers/directors of the show. Most popular shows have websites complete with discussion boards, games you can play and ways to “talk” to the show’s casts.( Here is the one for Walking Dead: ( I think that this is a trend we will see more of in the future.

I also really enjoyed the comments he made about gaming. I used to play Dungeons and Dragons as a youngster-well as an adult too-and I think online gaming is the new D&D. People used to say the same thing about D&D as they do about Warcraft and such now. Even then I thought it was better to be cursing out my Dungeon Master than sitting and watching the Cosby Show! Now days it is yelling at your crew for not covering your but during an online Halo adventure!(p. 21)