Tag Archives: Clay Shirky

Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality

At some point (probably one we’ve already passed), weblog technology will be seen as a platform for so many forms of publishing, filtering, aggregation, and syndication that blogging will stop referring to any particularly coherent activity. The term ‘blog’ will fall into the middle distance, as ‘home page’ and ‘portal’ have, words that used to mean some concrete thing, but which were stretched by use past the point of meaning.

Clay Shirky writing in 2003. Pretty prescient considering that’s 12 years ago.

Laptops in class

In Why I Just Asked My Students to Put Their Laptops Away, Clay Shirky writes about banning laptops from his fall seminar class. Toward the end of the piece he writes that:

Computers are not inherent sources of distraction — they can in fact be powerful engines of focus — but latter-day versions have been designed to be, because attention is the substance which makes the whole consumer internet go.

That’s the problem in banning them, though. Productive, non-distracted, work from a computer is a cornerstone of modern work. Removing laptops from the college classroom addresses the symptom while doing nothing for the root cause.

Clay acknowledges in his post that computers can allow for a focus so deep you lose track of time. I agree that’s not inherent, though. Rather, it’s a learned skill. If we’re going to ban laptops from college classrooms because students lack that skill we have to also ask when and where that should be taught. Teaching that level of device literacy needs to happen somewhere in the education system.

The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age

The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age. Clay Shirky’s fantastic post about the costs and structural instability of our current higher education model. The last line is killer:

Arguing that we need to keep the current system going just long enough to get the subsidy the world owes us is really just a way of preserving an arrangement that works well for elites—tenured professors, rich students, endowed institutions—but increasingly badly for everyone else.