Thursday, October 7, 2010

What I've Read Lately and Why I Am Here

I just finished Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky, who also wrote Here Comes Everybody, which I will now have to find and read as well... yes, my taste in reading material took a sharp turn into non-fiction a few years back when I began to feel like I'd read every story ever written and all possible variations thereof... I'm back to reading a bit of fiction, mostly steampunk novels, but the vast majority of my current word candy is real, rather than imaginary.  Anyway...

Shirky writes about the current abundance of intellect, energy, and time that he calls "cognitive surplus," and he gets into our means, motive and opportunity to use it in ways I have never considered, from silliness like LOLcats, to (how should I describe is?) Wikipedia, to more efficient charity (see the chapter on the Grobanites) to lifesaving uses like, which allows Kenyans to sidestep gov't censorship and to report acts of violence in real time.  He is more optimistic that I, predicting a reduction in creative quality on average but increased innovation, greater transparency throughout society, and a dramatic rise in productivity and generosity (that I sincerely hope is an accurate prognostication).

I enjoyed it - or I wouldn't have finished it, since anything that can't grab and keep my attention in the first 50 pages goes back to the library immediately, because life is too short to slog through anything I could have written better myself - and I found it motivating me to get off my duff and take advantage of what this lovely Mac will do.  And what my camera will do.  And maybe even my iPod.  But not my cell phone.  I still hate that thing.

Mr. Shirky doesn't seem to have a particularly good opinion of bloggers, or the uses of blogs, however.  They rank only slightly above LOLcats.  I can understand that - blogs are a temptation to bloviation.  Shoot, I've indulged my tendency toward verbosity enough to recognize that.  But that isn't really why I'm here.  I'm blogging along for several reasons that have nothing to do with the Joy of S- -peaking in Print.  (You thought I couldn't fit that in, didn't you?)

I'm here because this is the quickest, easiest way to record the silly things my children do, and to share them with their relatives (so we can all blackmail the kiddies later), because I forget that sort of thing so easily and so often.  I'm here because every once in awhile I find it necessary to say something without reducing it to the comprehension level of those same children, or without censoring it out of existence for their benefit.  I'm here because writing forces me to clarify my thinking, rather than mindlessly going with my emotion of the moment (It irritates me greatly when others do that, so I refuse to allow myself to do it, out of either fairness or arrogance - you can choose!).  And I'm here because eventually, I'd like to hear from my family and friends and anyone else who reads it, exactly what they think about whatever topic has caught my interest enough to bother blogging on it.

The next book will be What Women Want: The Global Market Turns Female Friendly by Paco Underhill, which indirectly explains why el Jefe and I both enjoy anything STEAMPUNK.

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