Clay Shirkey at NYLS Amateur Hour

Clay Shirkey, Adjunct Professor, New York University Interactive Telecommunications Program, is the keynote at NYLS Amateur Hour. “We’re living through the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race.”

* Printing press

* Telegraph/telephone

* Published media/recorded media (film, records)

* Broadcast

* Internet

The one that doesn’t fit is the phone/telegraph – it was point-to-point; the rest were broadcast.

What have we done with this?

Sharing

He points to lolcats. And then some more high minded uses.

Collaboration

He points to mashups – first HotOrNot + Google Maps. And then a mashup showing Tunisian prisons, including reviews of them – the prisons used to be in undisclosed locations.

Collective Action

Flash mobs is a case in point. Then it spread to Belarus, where a flash mob about eating ice cream in a public square in Minsk – and they were arrested for assembling. Yet then they documented it with their camera phones.

Acceleration

He points to Twitter – “the stupidest piece of software ever to launch.” It’s designed to allow people to write “what are you doing now”. First he mentions someone taking time from eating a snack food to Twitter about it. His high minded example? Egyptian prisoners from mobile phones to mobilize, free people, and simply broadcast their existence to prevent themselves from getting tortured.

Clay then talks about how the ease of publishing makes the question shift from “why publish this?” to “why not publish this?”

During Q&A, he refers to a fashion blogger in Thailand who covered tanks rolling into Bangkok as “a blogger who happened to commit an act of journalism.” A challenge now is how much journalistic protection to give bloggers, such as exempting them from testifying. Clay noted that we can’t give everyone these protections because then the legal system will fall apart, but he’s also not sure exactly where to draw that line.