Cognitive Surplus

The New York Times has a nice review of Clay Shirky’s book _Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. Here’s an excerpt:

The time we might free up by ditching TV is Shirky’s “cognitive surplus” — an ocean of hours that society could contribute to endeavors far more useful and fun than television. With the help of a researcher at I.B.M., Shirky calculated the total amount of time that people have spent creating one such project, Wikipedia. The collectively edited online encyclopedia is the product of about 100 million hours of human thought, Shirky found. In other words, in the time we spend watching TV, we could create 2,000 Wikipedia-size projects — and that’s just in America, and in just one year.

History, History, Always History

I came across a link to Daniel Walker Howe’s What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 which narrates the period in U.S. history which saw simultaneously territorial growth, religious revival, booming industrialization, a recalibrating of American democracy, and the rise of nationalist sentiment. This is such a critical period in the formation not only of the nation and the way we imagine the nation but also in a number of folk traditions. I really would like a semester, or at least some three-month period, to immerse myself in exploring the period in much more detail. I wonder if one of my colleague’s in history would have some recommendations.