Where’s the mouse? My favorite Shirkyism

Prepping for a class discussion on the powers of collaboration, I’m re-reading Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus. I was struck again by a specific passage that I just might read aloud to my newsroom this week.

Shirky tells the story of the little girl who, while watching a DVD, went behind the TV to look for the mouse.

He then writes:

Here’s something four-year-olds know: a screen without a mouse is missing something. Here’s something else they know: media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those things make me believe that the kind of participation we’re seeing today, in a relative handful of examples, is going to spread everywhere and to become the backbone of assumptions about how our culture should work. Four-year-olds, old enough to start absorbing the culture they live in but with little awareness of its antecedents, will not have to waste their time later trying to unlearn the lessons of a childhood spent watching Gilligan’s Island. They will just assume that media includes the possibilities of consuming, producing, and sharing side by side, and that those possibilities are open to everyone. How else would you do it?

The girl’s explanation has become my motto for what we might imagine from our newly connected world: we’re looking for the mouse.

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