Key Reading: The Shock of Inclusion

The Shock of Inclusion by Clay Shirky discusses how, even though the internet has only been around for a few decades, it’s already a major part of our lives. In the opening paragraph, Shirky writes:

“The Internet has been in majority use in the developed world for less than a decade, but we can already see some characteristic advantages (dramatically improved access to information, very large scale collaborations) and disadvantages (interrupt-driven thought, endless distractions.)”

I believe the large scale access to information to be both a advantage and disadvantage. It means that people can easily post false data, or access some personal information thanks to viruses and malware for example. Shirky makes a good point about how if something si in surplus, it becomes much less valuable, adn there’s more of it break. This is a good analogy for the internet, as it’s constantly expanding each and everyday, learning how we search and what we search for. It’s easy to become complacent with data seeking. I myself admit to using Wikipedia for information over a much more trusted provider, simply because it’s so simple to access and is normally one of the first search results that pop up.

Shirky continues by writing about how the internet is full of amateurs attempting to create something that would normally take a master to do. This means that key skills such as photography and web design are almost becoming redundant, as there is an easy amateur way of completing almost any task. A good example of this is the Amateur Photographer website, which gives amateur photographers easy access to specialist equipment, which these days is fairly simple to create good looking images. The technical skills of a photographer are becoming redundant, but there’s still an artistic insight that not everyone can achieve.

“As we know from NASA clickworkers, groups of amateurs can sometimes replace single
experts. As we know from Patients Like Me, patient involvement accelerates medical research. And so
on.”

Shirky ends the article by discussing the amazing possibilities that are possible using the internet’s mass-network. The ability for billions of people to contribute on one subject at one time, and produce something that an expert couldn’t even dream of, in an unheard of time frame. I believe this to be near impossible however, as the mass participation would be incredibly difficult to organise. Projects such as Crowd Sourcing and Crowd Funding (http://www.crowdsourcing.org/) are already attempting, and sometimes succeeding, to fund large scale projects using crowd contributions. This is where people from all across the world pay a small donation, or a piece of information on a subject, which is then compiled together to fund a project or a scientific study.

I believe the internet has amazing possibilities and I agree with Shirky on the things he has mentioned, however I don’t think it’s possible without careful regulation, and without distraction. There is too much going on on the internet, which makes mass contribution near impossible.

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