Looking for the Mouse

Why does Shirky title this chapter “looking for the mouse?” And how does the title relate to the theme of the chapter? What recent or new technologies do you see and wonder “why?” Do you think you are guilty of “looking for the mouse?” What technologies do you see around you that you suspect will come to be important in ways that we have yet to predict?

At first, I had to stop and ponder what in the world ‘looking for the mouse’ meant. Looking for a rodent? Why would one do that? But then it hit me as I used my computer’s trackpad to navigate to the internet for some explanation: He meant a computer mouse. Funny how outdated the term is, only three years after the publication of the book. I’m not certain how prevalent mice are with computers nowadays (especially with touch screens and trackpads sweeping through to take their places; we use iPads and laptops sans mouse at work), but it was somewhat funny to me that I had practically forgotten what a mouse was.

Regardless, I think the title is fitting for the chapter as a whole. As Shirky states: “We’re looking for the mouse. We look everywhere a reader or a viewer or a patient or a citizen has been locked out of creating and sharing, or has been served up a passive or canned experience, and we’re asking. If we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus and deploy it here, could we make a good thing happen?” Shirky seems to be saying that we’re constantly looking for ways to create interactive and participatory tools for our world in the hopes to create a better experience in life for everyone around.

There are plenty of technologies that I wonder “why” or “what in the world were they thinking? Do we need that?” Yet it’s still fun to see what solutions to previously-unknown problems people will come up with.


Case in point

Banana cutters aside, I think that the most impressive advances are currently taking place on the fronts of neurosciences and robotics; the development of different types of devices which are capable of traversing any type of terrain seem to be the ones at the front of my mind at this point. These will certainly be the technologies which will change the world, though I’m sure there are hundreds upon hundreds of examples worth looking into.


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