Clay Shirky at the Watershed #foishirky

Yesterday I attended a talk given by Clay Shirky as a part of the brilliant Bristol Festival of ideas at the Watershed cinema.

I’m not sure what I was expecting but my expectations weren’t that high – I enjoyed ‘Here Comes Everybody’ but it wasn’t exactly earth-shattering to anyone who had spent alot of time thinking about the web and I found it annoyingly US focused. That said Shirky does have a reputation as being an engaging speaker and I had purposely avoided ‘spoilers’ on his new work about ‘Cognitive Surplus‘ before last night.

I thought it was a pretty brilliant talk as it happens – he is a charismatic speaker with a nice line in using anecdotes and his story-telling skills to make his points. He held the attention of the packed crowd pretty much throughout and was excellent during the Q&A which included some pretty interesting questions (once we got past the standard ‘show me the money’ opener..)

One thing that has shifted in his thinking does seem to be the move away from such a US focus and he used many international examples to make his points.

The story of the Consortium of Loose and Pub-going Women was interesting stuff and not really something I knew about before. PatientsLikeMe seems to be a big favourite of his to illustrate his ideas but while I liked the idea I didn’t see it as the game-changer he obviously does – here in the UK we do have a very different attitude towards healthcare after all.

PickupPal didn’t seem to be a particularly innovative service either – there are loads of clever lift share sites out there – but maybe I’m missing something in the detail. The way the campaign about the closure forced a change in law was extremely cool though.

The basic premise of the talk (and his book) about Cognitive Surplus and the fact we have so much more time and opportunity to *do* stuff because of the barriers technology has broken down does ring true but I was a little less convinced about some of the motivations he ascribed to this behaviour.

Apparently the video is going to be available on the DShed site very soon and if you weren’t there I recommend checking it out.

That said judging by the activity in the bar after everyone was there! I had many great conversations with all manner of friends both old, new and previously just virtual. It is rare that any events brings out the Bristol digital masses and in many ways I enjoyed the ‘after-party’ more than the talk.

Anyway thanks to all who organised it and I’m looking forward to the Nick Carr event in August.

One thought on “Clay Shirky at the Watershed #foishirky

  1. > wasn’t exactly earth-shattering to anyone who had spent alot of time thinking about the web
    > Shirky does have a reputation as being an engaging speaker

    Both points could again be applied to last nights talk IMHO. But, like you, I did enjoy it a lot regardless.

    > That said judging by the activity in the bar after everyone was there!

    Agreed, bumped into many old friends a great evening – see you at the Nick Carr talk.

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