Clay Shirky Delivers Forward-Looking Convocation Address for Rollins' Founders' Day

November 11, 2010

Clay Shirky

After a symbolic academic procession that begun at Winter Park’s City Hall and concluded at Alfond Sports Center, the Rollins community filed into Warden Arena to attend the first of many events planned to celebrate the College’s 125th birthday.

While the sentiment of the Founders’ Day Convocation was one of reverent reminiscence, there was much optimistic forward vision thanks to a provocative convocation address given by Clay Shirky, author of Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. As one of the leading contemporary thinkers on Internet technologies (i.e., social networks and media) and their impact in moving society and economies, Shirky shared an exciting and optimist outlook of how new media is giving society the opportunity to create and share at unprecedented levels.

The chairs and stands were filled with onlookers riveted as Shirky shared about our current media and cultural “revolution” in which he states “the gap between what’s traditional and what’s possible has never been wider.” Using a multitude of real-world examples spanning the globe, he demonstrated how innovation and collaboration through the Internet has made huge differences in the political and social spheres of places like Kenya, Haiti and India. And while Shirky was quick to admit that this “revolution” is also responsible for a lot of trivial and meaningless virtual content, he inspired the audience to focus on using these new tools to help solve real world problems.

“We can take advantage of these collaborative possibilities,” Shirky encouraged. And he also warned “it falls to us to do it—it’s happening on our watch,” a message directed at both students and faculty who both share a unique responsibility in understanding how new media impacts our world.

Perhaps the most inspiring component of Shirky’s message was the recognition that some of the most significant advancements on the Internet have risen from a “let’s see if this works”’ attitude that’s been very forgiving of mistakes. It was a wonderful message for students who benefited from hearing Shirky share that it’s okay to slip-up; try anyway.

“I was pretty inspired by the passion shown by so many students who got up early in the morning to show their support for the Rollins 125th,” said Lucas Hernandez (Class of 2013). “The speaker was brilliant. He sparked a lot of conversation about technology and higher education and how they intersect. My friends and I talked a lot afterward about technology and what we think the future might hold.”

In his final remarks to the crowd, President Duncan, clearly moved by Shirky’s optimism, noted that the outlook “gives rise to the question of what the next 125 years will look like.” The event concluded with a question and answer period which drew about a dozen excellent questions from students and faculty. Afterward, a select number of visitors and faculty joined Shirky in Reeves Lodge for an intimate discussion on such topics as privacy and regulation.

View more photos from the Founder's Day Convocation.

By Kristen Manieri

Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
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