iStock-internetClay Shirky is an academic, writer and analyst of social and other impacts of the Internet.  These videos got me thinking.  Thanks to @Scott_Drummond for alerting me to Cognitive Surplus via Twitter.  The second more recent video is available on

Shirky notes the confusion caused by the industrial revolution and the sedative role that gin played to mask the pain of transition caused by moving from the known (agrarian communities) to the unknown (over‑crowded cities with little or no infrastructure in place).

No less confusing (and painful for some) are current changes to media and communication dispersal.  We are no longer passive consumers. New technologies are helping us all to consume AND produce AND share ideas and information. Many are using the hours once spent passively watching television to contribute to the conversation. “Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for”.

Shirky uses the site as an excellent example of an invitation to participate. Barack Obama gets why it’s called social media. Other politicians are still working out that social media is not about having new vehicles to push through the same old same old.

It is more often than not messy and complex. There may not be the need for gin (unless you’re heavily invested in print media). The quality of our contributions will be patchy. Yet out of confusion, wonderful ideas can emerge.

That’s what resonated for me in my role as a facilitator. The phrase ‘convene not control’ is a great intention to bring into a room of people whether the room is real or virtual.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney

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