Clay Shirky is teacher, writer and consultant on the social and cultural effects of the internet and mobile phones, particularly where they allow for amateur access to the public sphere and easy coordination for group action. He holds a joint appointment at NYU as Arts Professor at NYU’s graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program in the Tisch School of the Arts, and as a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute in the Faculty of Arts and Science. His courses address how communications networks shape culture and vice-versa. He is also a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Institute for the Study of the Internet and Society, and in the fall of 2010, he was the Edward R. Murrow Visiting Lecturer at the Shorenstein Center for the Press and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
Shirky is the author of two recent books on social media. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, published in 2010, describes new forms of coordinated voluntary participation, ranging from political activism to the creation of lolcats, and Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, published in 2008, describes how the social media landscape came to be. These two books have been translated into 10 languages. Several of his essays have been anthologized, including, most recently, his 2009 essay, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, on the fate of newspapers in the digital age.
He has written extensively about the Internet since 1996. His columns and writings have appeared in Business 2.0, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review and Wired, and has given talks all over the world, including TED talks in Oxford, Cannes, and at the US State Department, and at Emerging Tech, the Economist's “Human Potential” conference, Tech4Africa, and South by Southwest. Shirky was named one of Foreign Policy's “Top 100 Global Thinkers” in 2010.
Prior to joining the NYU faculty, Mr. Shirky was a partner at the investment firm The Accelerator Group, and the Chief Technology Officer of Site Specific, a web design firm based in Manhattan. In the early 1990s, Shirky was vice-president of the New York chapter of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and wrote technology guides for Ziff Davis. He appeared as an expert witness on Internet culture in Shea v. Reno, a case cited in the U. S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Communications Decency Act in 1996.
Shirky is a 1986 cum laude graduate of Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in fine arts. In 1990 he founded in New York City a theater company, Hard Place Theater, in which he created and directed several "non-fiction" theater pieces using only found materials such as government documents, transcripts and cultural records. During this period, he began using the internet as a research tool, and has never looked back.