This is Clay Shirky‘s talk from the Web 2.0 EXPO 2008.

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Very informative presentation with great examples to illustrate it. However, as it often happens with things that I want to apply into Romanian context the cognitive surplus seem to have a different history back home.

For what did the Romanian society used its cognitive surplus while building up its “industrial” society during Communism? I cannot answer this yet. For sure though the answer will  not be TV because during those years we had access to the most 3 hours of broadcasting per day (one of them being dedicated to news about the most beloved leader and his wife….) However,  part of it is, I am sure, connected to reading. I talked a little bit about this and its very interesting to see how books and reading were really a pilot for social web of today. Sharing was a key factor of those informal networks that circulated the good books and people were often breaking the laws contributing to these communities.

For almost 20 years now the “original” democracy in Romania has been pushing hard the sitcoms and sitcoms-like-news on the little cognitive surplus left of people after working hard for their daily bread. Not being used to speak their mind they got easily tricked by the media and accepted their passive position as receivers.  Can we hope that the Web will change this?

Part of the Romanians that get online are using the Web as presented by Shirky. Is there any connection between the good readers during Communism and the good web users today? My intuition would say yes, there should be a relation and I feel it is not determined by the financial status. I wish I would have time to look more into this!

How about the rest of “everybody”?  If they were not reading, what were the people doing with their cognitive surplus during Communism and what are they doing with it now? What does the Web has to offer in order to get them to turn the TV off and participate?

No, Romania is not behind the TV looking for the mouse…but it is aware of what a mouse is and that is a start.