CSCW 2010 keynote by Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky

The first keynote at CSCW 2010 was given by Clay Shirky, the author of “Here Comes Everybody”. I really liked his presentation style. He used PowerPoint as everybody else does, but would blank out the screen from time to time and have the audience’s focus on him. Following are some of the interesting points from his talk.

There is a big difference between publishing in the past century and this present one. In the 20th century, people would ask “why publish?” and now, the question is “why not?”. This is primarily due to the significant reduction in cost for publishing. Today, almost anyone can create a blog, post a Twitter update, and update their status on social networking sites with very little cost and effort.

Motivation is highly valuable aspect to study in communities. Why does/should someone contribute/create? Clay gave an example of people using Lego blocks to create structures. Two teams were given the same blocks and tasks. None were paid for the first week. The second week, one of the teams was paid. They took longer to finish as they were trying to build some more blocks to get paid more. Interestingly, when nobody was given any compensation the third week, the team that was paid in the second week did worse than even the first week! They had lost their “motivation”. This motivation was extrinsic, as opposed to the other team that did what they did based on their intrinsic motivation. Clay gave a couple of other examples showing how intrinsic motivation can make people create and contribute significantly more than when they are extrinsically motivated.

Clay then talked about cultures. He argued that culture can take the role of coordinating people and events. Once people’s coordination behavior is changed, you can essentially change their culture. In other words, to influence people to change their culture, change their coordinating environment. This can be done by providing extrinsic motivations.

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