Response 9: Postman, Sterling, and Shirky

DUE: November 21, 2013

For response #9, please write about the texts we read by Neil Postman and/or Bruce Sterling, or the video by Clay Shirky. Please be sure to focus on something specific and cite some passages or parts of passages in your analysis. Remember, you should have a point or a key question that you are pursuing. Here are a few prompts if you're having trouble getting started:

  • Contrast the outlooks of Tsuyoshi Shimizu and the American government official Louise Hashimoto in Sterling's story "Maneki Neko." How do these characters view "the network" differently? What assumptions do they make that result in their disagreement? If they can be said to represent approaches to information (share it vs. secure it), do they find any reconciliation at the end of the story? Today, how is the border between stealing and sharing negotiated on the internet? (It might be best to narrow your response by only dealing with one or two of the previous questions.)
  • We see two visions of generosity in Sterling's story and in Shirky's "Cognitive Surplus" lecture. Are these visions idealistic or realistic? Do you think ultimately they could bring us a better, more cooperative, more ethical world? Explain, using examples from both/either.
  • Shirky argues that a combination of digital technology and human generosity results in huge potential. How does his concept of "cognitive surplus" benefit the world, according to Shirky? If Postman were present at Shirky's lecture, how might he have responded? What questions would he ask? What protests would he have? What is the implication or root of the differences between these two thinkers? (i.e. what conflicting, underlying assumptions or world views do they have?) Would they agree on any count?
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