Clay Shirky is one of the most prominent and well-respected thinkers there is when it comes to the political impact of digital media. This summer, he gave a talk at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh -- subject: how the Internet will (one day) change government -- and the video of that session has now been posted.
In the talk above, Shirky focuses on the power of community rather than technology, exploring the capabilities of open-source communities like GitHub. There is reason, he says, both to temper our optimism about the Internet and to embrace it. The revolutionary talk we often lapse into when we talk about the Internet -- the idea that it will, in general, change everything -- is not new, Shirky points out. "When the telegraph came along," he notes, "it was clear that it was going to globalize the news industry. What would this lead to? Well, obviously, it would lead to world peace. The television, a medium that allowed us not just to hear but see -- literally see -- what was going on elsewhere in the world, what would this lead to? World peace. The telephone? You guessed it: world peace."