The 2009 Creativity 50: Clay Shirky

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The thesis of Here Comes Everybody is simple, according to the book's author: "We're living through—in our historical generation—the largest increase in human expressive capability in history." What this means for society is what Shirky—a longtime tech writer and NYU professor—tries to untangle. In short, he explains that humans are good at forming groups and the internet is really good at helping them do so. With examples that involve everyone from photo hobbyists on Flickr to dissident teens in Belarus, he details how the web has facilitated sharing, conversation, collaboration, and (ultimately) collective action—how every URL has become a "latent community," as he says. Mandatory reading for anyone who wants to understand how the internet works today.

Shirky on the effect of the internet on society: "It seems to me that life has gotten to the point where the effects of the internet are now becoming broadly social enough that there is a general awareness that the internet isn't a decoration on contemporary society, it's a challenge to it—that a society that has an internet is a different kind of society than a society that doesn't, in the same way that a society that had a printing press was a different kind of society than a society that didn't." (from a talk delivered at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University in February 2008)

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