Online Collaboration

Clay Shirky: Platforms for Collaboration

For the past dozen years, Clay Shirky has been one of the most thoughtful and insightful writers about the impact of new internet technologies on the way people organize to get things done. Although the context he emphasizes is that of business, his ideas apply equally to all sectors. His recent book, Here Comes Everybody, is the most extensive discussion of his innovative thinking to date.

In the following video, Shirky looks at the impact of platforms like Facebook and MySpace, which are used by tens of millions of people. Though started as sharing mechanisms for teenagers and college students, these collaborative technologies offer people and organizations of all types innovative ways to organize for many purposes.

Shirky sees a radical change made possible by such platforms, especially as they become so familiar as to be used routinely, like the telephone and email. As he puts it, the traditional way to coordinate action or production requires the creation of hierarchical organizations with very high start-up costs. That model is being replaced by “flat” groups collaborating through the internet. The control of information and communication in specific cases can be taken away from the traditional institutions, empowering thousands of people to influence decisions that affect them.

The video offers an extremely brief introduction to his thinking. YouTube has many additional presentations by him that can be found here.

This post is the first in an ongoing series. Cross Collaborate will regularly explore implications of internet technologies for the future of collaboration relating to public policy and the involvement of citizens of governmental planning.


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