A Shirky Response: Wikipedia and “Ridiculously Easy Group Forming”



When we look at the ways in which societies from all over the world are able to connect, we almost instinctively begin to think of the tools that have enabled us to connect. The internet acts as our vessel to reach out to audiences we never imagined possible before. In relation to Shirky’s examples and analysis, we see that websites allow for average people outside the realms of a “Professional Organization” to rally together and form groups (including informal organizations of their own).


Concerning Wikipedia, the encyclopedia database is a collaborative effort from a variety of different people, thus different perspectives. Wikipedia acts as the tool for which researchers can gather and collect information. This collectiveness would not have been possible if not for Wikipedia as a website, sort of the way Flickr acts as a vessel for Photographers to collaboratively work, link, and connect together. Working towards one goal, in this way, allows for the audiences these sites are reaching out toward to gain some sense of digestibility. What I mean by that is with a countless number of people working toward a goal (as discussed in Chapter 1 of Shirky’s book: “Here Comes Everybody”), the audience they end up reaching begins to broaden itself, and more quality work and effort gets accomplished.


However, as Shirky points out in Chapter 2, not always do large groups working together reach their goals. In relation to Wikipedia, this may be true in that research may sometimes conflict, and information may not be accurate and so forth. It becomes a very difficult platform to keep track of, but at the same time, the workload is heavily decreased with group effort. I would assume that most of Wikipedia’s information comes from students and educators who have applied thorough research, and together they take “collective action” in a non-institutional way, without monetary profit or managerial push, but because they have merely decided to gather.


A Reflection to: Shirky’s “Organizing Without Organizations”


Shirky opens up his book with this “saga of the lost phone” to make an example out of how we, as humans, get tasks done in this day and age. The blatant point made is that things have changed. Shirky states that as sociable beings, we are able to complete a lot more and do so a lot more effectively because we—as a countless number of people—work together, instead of as our own separate individual. And because things have changed, technology has allowed us to simplify the means by which we organize to tackle a certain task.

With Shirky’s “StolenSidekick” example, we see that the more people who rally in effort to accomplish something…are the more people who rally to accomplish something. The actions of Evan, Ivanna, and Sasha are the catalysts for this social explosion and audience phenomenon: the availability of Evan’s social network (already equipped with a readership to boot) allowed him to open his own space of internet forum and gather forth a group of people who supported his cause. Thus, with the number of his internet supporters growing from the thousands to the millions, it was obvious that somewhere along the way, the ones who stopped him from achieving his end goal would naturally become the minority. As society has taught us, the minority opinion must eventually succumb to that of the majority or become the majority itself.

If we, as a group of people, all work toward one goal the probability of reaching said goal becomes that much more attainable. Evan’s internet force is a prime example of how social networking has changed the way we organize ourselves into a larger, majority group. With the help of the internet, we can easily reach a wider audience and pull them over to our side.

When Life Gives You Privilege, Should You Take It?


 When life gives you privilege should you take it and run? That’s the question Philip Guo, a Computer Science Graduate of MIT, once asked himself. As an Asian male with no former/proper experience in coding computers (or anything remotely related to CS), Philip entered his chosen major a blank state—not that his colleagues or professors ever did doubt his natural technologically savvy ability.


It’s less about the flattery or the confidence other people feel towards Guo, and more about why other people would assume his capabilities are based purely on looks. Does society project a particular standard onto its people? A kind of stereotype? Maybe typecast us into a perceived role?


Philip says this is present in the Computer Science major, but it goes so much farther beyond even this. And although this “privilege” works positively in his favor, he wonders how his female friends (or even any other ethnicity beyond Asian/White male) may work beyond the prevalent privilege Philip was simply handed. He’s suggesting that ability need not be based on physical attributes or societal roles—forget them. Because ability stems from hard work, dedication, and ultimately ability. There are no magical all seeing windows, unfortunately.



Here’s the original article, take a look: 
Slate, “Silent Technical Privilege”

A Reaction to McSweeney’s (1/15)


Possibly, these authors were looking to use self-deprecation to get their points across. This is more so prevalent in Cameron Dodd’s post “COLLEGE WRITING CLASS ASSIGNMENTS WITH REAL WORLD APPLICATIONS” than Robert Lanham’s “INTERNET-AGE WRITING SYLLABUS AND COURSE OVERVIEW“. Both seek to exemplify the current college student generation.


In a way, the contemporary world belongs to that of its contemporary inhabitants—a.k.a., the newest generation of writers should make no attempts to replicate that of, say, the work of literary classics. Not to say that the classics are outdated, or that its more formal and strict format isn’t something to appreciate. However, in order to make room for a fresh version of the classic writers from this era, this time period, from this modern and contemporary world we need to break the rules and create things from the unexplored: exactly what these two writers have done.


WHAT SHOULD BE: Dodd’s work implies that real world experience is a fresh way of not only representing a part of the contemporary world (kind of like a snapshot), but also to bring something unexpected and genre-breaking into the literary world. Each sentence listed is interesting because we, as readers, like the relatable and connect with an author/writer who doesn’t hold back, making the mundane into the entertaining.


WHAT COULD BE: The format of Lanham’s piece offers much to be appreciated. By now, we all now what a class syllabus looks like, and usually, it’s never fun. Lanham gives it a cool, sarcastic twist and embedded underneath all that sarcasm is exactly what shouldn’t go on inside a writing class. That’s what makes it interesting. Lanham takes our expectations and gives us these quirky, overdramatic, yet hilarious categories of prose that more than likely predict where the future of literature is headed. What scares me is that—somewhere, at some point in time in the very near future coming—this may actually become a class.


So the lesson? Read McSweeney’s and save the world.