The Internet: creativity, connectedness, & generosity

This is a quick snip snip of the choicest bits, the bits that stood out for me as I was reading this article, “Nice and nasty does it: Shirky the ‘net guru’ on what the future holds” by Decca Aitkenhead in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“And to put it in one bleak sentence, no medium has ever survived the indifference of 25-year-olds.”

The business model of the traditional print newspaper … is doomed …

… the popularity of online social media trumps all our old assumptions about the superiority of professional content, and the primacy of financial motivation.

… people are more creative and generous than we had ever imagined, and would rather use their free time participating in amateur online activities such as Wikipedia – for no financial reward – because they satisfy the primal human urge for creativity and connectedness.

… the internet’s capacity for “an unlimited amount of zero-cost reproduction of any digital item by anyone who owns a computer” has removed the barrier to universal participation, and revealed that human beings would rather be creating and sharing than passively consuming what a privileged elite think they should watch.

Shirky concedes that the web’s ability to connect people with a common enthusiasm, however obscure or deviant, can create a dangerously distorted impression of what is healthy or normal.

“And it seems to me that the net trade-off of lessening society’s ability to project a sense of normal that no one actually lives up to is a good thing.

The neuroscientist Susan Greenfield produced a report last year which suggested that the popularity of online social media was damaging children’s brain development, in particular their capacity for empathy.

“But the alarmism around ‘Facebook is changing our brains’ strikes me as a kind of historical trick. Because we now know from brain science that everything changes our brains.

If the web has unlocked all this human potential for generosity and sharing, how come the people using it are so horrible to each other?

“So, there’s two things to this paradox. One is that those conversations were always happening. People were saying those nasty things to one another in the pub or whatever. You just couldn’t hear them before. So it’s a change in our awareness of truth, not a change in the truth.

“Then there’s this second effect, that anonymity makes people behave more meanly.

“What I think is going to happen there is we are slowly going to set up islands of civil discourse.

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