Team 3 Synthesis

Synthesis 1

Yesterday’s discussion revolved around the first two chapters of Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus. We focused our discussion on some of the questions the three of us had while reading the first two chapters. The first question generated the most response and was about coping mechanism. We took the question from Shirky’s description of prohibition and the use of gin as a coping mechanism. Although the question generated a great deal of discussion between the three group members, the group was hesitant to discuss coping mechanism. I think this is because, as pointed out in class, to admit the need for a coping mechanism is the admit weakness. In retrospect, I would have substituted the term “coping mechanism” for something like escapism, or at least a term less threatening.

The main themes throughout our discussion, or the themes we were trying to draw out of the discussion, are authenticity, a definition of interaction, and the threat technology poses to face-to-face interaction. Who are you when you’re online? The idea of an avatar was extremely interesting. When you have the opportunity to make yourself over, do you honestly describe yourself or do you completely reinvent yourself? We discussed how easy it was to give and get validation from social media sites. But, since validation is easier to get, it counts less. Virtual validation is worth less than face-to-face validation. Similarly, does that mean that virtual interactions are less valued than face-to-face interaction? This ties into the social surrogacy theory. We didn’t mention social surrogacy in the in-class discussion, but we did touch on the concept of television taking up more and more of our free time and it was one of our keywords.

One of the main concepts we didn’t touch in our discussion was that of sampling and how easy it is to get published now that we have the Internet. We’ve discussed sampling before, but I’d have liked to revisit that topic in our discussion. Publishing personal work was the one topic I feel we should have hit harder in our discussion.

Katelyn McDaniel


Monday’s discussion touched on some very thought provoking topics. Although in his book, Shirky makes the point that we use technology as a coping mechanism, many people in the class did not totally agree. They thought the term “coping mechanism” had negative connotations, and therefore described their technology usage as an escape instead. This idea of escape, they did not find to be negative.

I thought that it was very interesting to see how multiple people connected the Internet to the idea of control. The idea that we go out into the “real world” so that we can experience not being in control was something I had never thought of before.

I also liked the idea that the Internet gives us more control because it gives us more power, and therefore more freedom. This power comes from the vast numbers of Internet users who are willing to use their free time to create websites such as Wikipedia, or organize a protest against a government. Because the Internet gives us a way to not only make our ideas public, but to organize, we can use our new found power to affect the world around us.

If I could go back, I would either add a keyword or a question about the aggregate. The idea that there are such huge numbers of people out there trying to find ways to spend their free time is one of Shirky’s main points, and it is not a point we dealt with as much as we should have.

Sarah Joseph


I feel the discussion and responses built upon Shirky's major concepts and the class' conversation flowed naturally, for the most part!

I believe that the internet truly has shaped- and continues to shape - us, and, as revealed in our discussion, the dependency and relationship each person has with digital technologies can be a sensitive subject. However, the vast advances of the internet clearly reach us, even if unintended.

Towards the end of the discussion I felt our questions were running out. Perhaps we went through them too quickly? The backtracking did seem to pull some of the keywords back into the discussion. All in all, I have a new perspective and respect for teachers giving lectures; we can be a tough crowd!

Rachel Blackwell