Cognitive Surplus – Book Discussion

by dunce one on March 23, 2011

cognitive surplusDunce two, I have been reading a book by Clay Shirky called Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.

I’m only about halfway through right now, so I can’t weigh in yet on my overall impressions–although that has never stopped me before. But there was something that caught my eye in an early chapter that I would like to know your non-thoughts on.

There is a lot of talk about the evolution of the printing press. With greater means of distribution, and with more people able to publish books, the overall amount of excellent works must necessarily dip. Whether you believe that or not, here are a couple of quotes:

From Edgar Allan Poe:

The enormous multiplication of books in every branch of knowledge is one of the greatest evils of this age; since it presents one of the most serious obstacles to the acquisition of correct information by throwing in the reader’s way piles of lumber in which he must painfully grope for the scraps of lumber

And from Martin Luther:

The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no measure of limit to this fever for writing; every one must be an author; some out of vanity, to acquire celebrity and raise up a name; others for the sake of mere gain.

There is no better example of how easy it is to push “publish” than to do what I’m about to do–push the publish button and send this post out into the web.

Thoughts on these quotes? I doubt many would argue that the majority of material being added to the web every day elevates the discourse.

It now seems completely archaic that there was a time when the public was not able to put information out there, but there you have it. That’s exactly how it used to be.

I’ve always been a fan of Poe’s, but there are plenty of people out there who think he was the biggest hack of all time.

Does any of this change your thoughts on anything?

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