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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Clay Shirky at Web 2.0

Jeff Donlan, director of the Salida Regional Library here in Colorado, sent me a fascinating video clip featuring author, teacher, and lecturer Clay Shirky.

You can click on the entry link to watch the 13 minute clip of his talk at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco earlier this year. He makes several points that are, I think, relevant not only to librarianship, but to the idea of civic engagement. In brief: it is better to do SOMETHING (participative) than NOTHING (mindlessly consuming television programming and advertising).

The clip is brilliant: a provocative beginning, and a thoroughly thought-provoking ending. Throughout, Shirky is articulate and cogent. He reminds me of Jaron Lanier, the first person I remember talking about the fundamental difference between the television and the telephone: the first one is passive, the second is active.

The telephone, of course, is more like the Internet -- but the conversation endures in cyberspace.

The implication for libraries is this: to build stronger communities, our job isn't just to distribute books, movies, and music. It's to get people talking about them, producing them, sharing them, using them to grow and to learn. That makes for a library that's really doing something.

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