Knowledge Exchange: Cognitive Surplus / by Nick Ierodiaconou

I was interested by Clay Shirky’s (professor at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program) term cognitive surplus. The technology revolution in the 20th century resulted in increased personal wealth, education attainment, rising life expectancy and the five day week – all resulting in free time. Shirky proposes that the response to the cognitive surplus was crisis – in the form of watching TV! How big is the surplus? Shirky uses Wikipedia as a measure - the whole of wikipedia equates to 100 million hours of human thought. The potential for user-lead consuming, producing and sharing is revealed when compared to the time spent on TV – in the US every year 200 billion hours of TV are watched. When people start experimenting with the surplus it becomes integrated into and transforms society. For example the Brazilian site Vasco Furtado – the website allows people to record instances of crime on a Google map. The information already exists as tacit knowledge but this platform allows its gathering and exchange, and exposing the weakness in the top-down system to disseminate this information. SH