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Entries in Technology (77)


Clay Shirky & the Power of Disposable Attention

Thanks to Derek Dysart, I was able to hear Clay Shirky's "Gin, Television, and Social Surplus" talk from the Web 2.0 Expo, embedded for your viewing pleasure:

Clay's assertion is that like gin sold from pushcarts helping Londoners cope with the sudden shift from rural farming to urban industrialization, the TV sitcom helped post-WWII society cope with a new surplus of leisure and free time:

If I had to pick the critical technology for the 20th century, the bit of social lubricant without which the wheels would've come off the whole enterprise, I'd say it was the sitcom. Starting with the Second World War a whole series of things happened--rising GDP per capita, rising educational attainment, rising life expectancy and, critically, a rising number of people who were working five-day work weeks. For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before — free time.

He argues that society is awakening from a focus on TV sitcoms, and is realizing that they are in a position to create the content they want. They are able to contribute to the discussion, in ways not possible before:

And it's only now, as we're waking up from that collective bender, that we're starting to see the cognitive surplus as an asset rather than as a crisis. We're seeing things being designed to take advantage of that surplus, to deploy it in ways more engaging than just having a TV in everybody's basement.

What Shirky calls a cognitive surplus, I like to call disposable attention. Some may choose to spend attention on one-way activities like TV, but this is changing with the new generation. Shirky shares this story about one young girl's reaction to TV:

I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she's going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn't what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, "What you doing?" And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, "Looking for the mouse."

I'm fascinated at how deeply this 4 year old has been impacted by interactivity in her life. She so wanted to have an impact on the TV show she was experiencing that she had to "find the mouse" in an effort to make an impact. Consuming was not enough for her — she wanted to interact.

There are many new opportunities available to us that were not available 10 years ago. We have the power to create. We have the power to write our own stories on blogs, tell them in podcasts and show them in videos. We can contribute to larger projects like Wikipedia or attend BarCamps.

The encouragement to me in all this is we're moving beyond the stage of simply sitting on a couch, accepting what's being presented. We're given the opportunity to create and share our own stories, finding there are others like us out there, interested in our stories and willing to share theirs with us.

Here are a few great parting quotes from Shirky's talk:

Here's something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here's something four-year-olds know: Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because four year olds, the people who are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won't have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching Gilligan's Island, they just assume that media includes consuming, producing and sharing.

We're looking for the mouse. We're going to look at every place that a reader or a listener or a viewer or a user has been locked out, has been served up passive or a fixed or a canned experience, and ask ourselves, "If we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus and deploy it here, could we make a good thing happen?" And I'm betting the answer is yes.

Related Links
Transcript of Clay's talk
Book: Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
Mark Bernstein: Shirky and History


The MilwaukeeDevHouse Experience

2333772887_9473dfd861_m.jpgLast night, Nathan and I packed up the MacBook, Canon scanner, 27 of his "transportation" themed drawings and headed downtown.

We were off to take part in the first ever MilwaukeeDevHouse at Bucketworks — an opportunity to hang out with a bunch of local Milwaukee tech geeks, doing stuff together.

When we arrived, Bucketworks was already hopping! I counted 30 people, and I may have missed some attendees wandering around Bucketworks (not to mention those who came after we left at 9pm).

2334510917_cd798e2924_t.jpgWe found a spot at one of the tables and setup the MacBook and scanner, then Nathan and I worked together as a team to scan, tune and upload his drawings on Transportation to Flickr.

Today I asked Nathan his thoughts on the event, and he said:

"I liked the people and the noise and the food. I liked pushing the buttons to scan my drawings. I liked everything there!"

This was an excellent experience for us both on many levels:

  • We shared quality father and son time in a fun, shared environment
  • I was able to encourage Nathan in his creative work by scanning his art
  • Nathan met a variety of Web414 pals and learned how to interact with others
  • We were able to build a memorable experience with tangible results
What's MilwaukeeDevHouse?
In a nutshell, a DevHouse is a space where people can work on serious or fun projects, either by themselves or in a team. Here's the official description:

MilwaukeeDevHouse aims to be the premier regularly scheduled hackathon event that combines serious and not-so-serious productivity with a fun and exciting party atmosphere.

If you’re a coder, designer, or just someone who enjoys software and technology development, MilwaukeeDevHouse was made for you...

MilwaukeeDevHouse is intended for passionate and creative technical people that want to have some fun, learn new things, and meet new people.

If you have the chance to check out a DevHouse locally, do it! Our experience was wonderful. Even better, start a local DevHouse in your area.

Special thanks to Pete Prodoehl, one of the leaders of MilwaukeeDevHouse.

We're already looking forward to MilwaukeeDevHouse2! :-)

Related Links
MilwaukeeDevHouse1 Photos on Flickr
Nathan's Transportation Drawings:

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


SXSW Interactive 2008 Sketchnotes

SXSWi 2008 Sketchnotes: First Spread

Welcome BoingBoing readers! Be sure to check out my follow-up post called Lessons Learned from my SXSW Sketchnotes too!

SXSW Interactive 2008 Sketchnotes are up!
I've just completed scanning, tuning and uploading 34 pages of sketchnotes I captured in my pocket Moleskine sketchbook at SXSW Interactive earlier this week.

I think the sketchnotes turned out well, and it was no problem for me to continuously create them for nearly every session I attended. I certainly went through ink in my G2 mini pens — I'm glad I brought several along.

With the SEED Conference sketchnotes being pretty popular, I'm curious to see how these SXSW sketchnotes are received. While sketchnotes capture concentrated concepts for each session well, I think they're even better at awakening ideas stored in the minds of session attendees.

Speakers Featured
Here are the speakers featured in the SXSW Interactive Sketchnotes: Naz Hamid, Veronica Belmont, Casey McKinnon, Ryan King, Glenda Bautista, Ariel Waldman, John Gruber, Michael Lopp, Jim Coudal, Dan Rubin, Didier Hilhorst, Eris Stassi, Lea Alcantara (sorry for the Leah misspell in the notes!), Ben Brown and Frank Warren.

Finally, here's the FlickrSlidr Slideshow set:

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I did creating them! :-)

Stats on Flickr — Wow!
Sketchnote Stats

Check out Shaun Swick's very cool SXSW Sketchnotes 08 Flickr Set for another perspective.

Dave Gray does his style of sketchnotes on 3x5 notecards, check out his set from VizThink08.

Related Mentions:
Coudal Partners
Daring Fireball
Rob Hinchcliffe
Jeremy Greenawalt
Laughing Squid
The Guardian: Jemima Kiss' PDA Blog
Scot Hacker
SXSW Baby!
The Center for Graphic Facilitation
Alphachimp Studio
Inbound Gowanus
Electric Weekend
GlobalNerdy: Joey deVilla
iPlot: Tim Lebrecht
Paul Isakson
Karma Cool
FrogDesign Frogblog
Howie Chang
That's Right
Memoirs on a Rainy Day
Jason Santa Maria
Brand Flakes for Breakfast
My Back Channel
Hoi Polloi Report
CNET: Matter/Anti-Matter
The Opine
Danny Gregory
Boing Boing
Digital Web Magazine
Ship's Biscuit
Bionic Teaching
Newpress Blog of the World
Full Circle Associates
The Agenda: The Fifth Column
Garrison Reid
Under Consideration: Quipsologies No. 47
That Dismal Science
The 20x200 Blog
Palm Addict
Overnight Lows
OS Meus Apontadores
Boy Meets Blog
Picture Imperfect
About Design: R. Bird
Speak Up!
Alex Jones
BeaconFire Consulting
The Pen Addict
Live Exhaust
Jeff Lin
Flirty Sanchez
Nick Chapman
'skine art
Tommy Young's Idle Musings


Rohdesign Podcast 05 - SXSW Roundtable Discussion

rohdesign-podcast_144.jpgI've now recorded and posted Rohdesign Podcast Episode 05 in Austin, a little longer 16 minute roundtable discussion on the patio at SXSW interactive. It's posted as an MP3 and as a web-based flash player:

In the fifth episode of the Rohdesign Podcast, I talk with Ashe Dryden, David Overbeck and Carlos Ortega about their impressions of SXSW Interactive, favorite sessions and why you should consider attending SXSW 2009.


Rohdesign Podcast 04 - SXSW Interactive Edition

rohdesign-podcast_144.jpgI've now recorded and posted Rohdesign Podcast Episode 04 in Austin, after 2 days at SXSW interactive. It's posted as an MP3 and as a web-based flash player:

In the fourth episode of the Rohdesign Podcast, I talk about networking at SXSW, excellent design sessions I was able to attend, sketchnotes progress and plans for Sunday's activities.