Development of the Internet and Cognitive Surplus

Twitter is one of my favorite websites on the Internet.

The reason for that is because all information is laid out and easily accessible:

But what did it look like when it first was created?

What about Yahoo?

Or Google?

Well things always start somewhere. The web has become prettier and more user-friendly in the past two decades.

This is known as Web 2.0.

…but let’s start with Web 1.0.

In Web 1.0, users passively received information in the form of text and had no opportunity to give feedback.

In Web 2.0, experts label it as “wikis, blogs, social network sites, tagging, and user-generated content sites like Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook, Youtube,, Flickr, Digg, and Twitter” (Marwick, 2013, p. 22). Users are able to interact to the content displayed on the webpages by posting comments and collaborate to add, remove, or edit content.

With the constantly expanding freedom of the Internet, people began to use the platform to their advantage.

One specific example is the Bernie Sanders political movement, which shows how far the Internet has come, illustrating its power and how change can be facilitated through it.

After Senator Bernie Sanders declared that he was running for POTUS in 2015, he gradually became an internet sensation with a following on numerous sites including Reddit.

I believe the reason that he has gained such a fan-base online is because millennials dominate the Internet, and many of them have grown sick and tired of the same-old establishment “big-money” politics.

Sanders would have been eliminated in the democratic primaries at a far earlier time if not for the hundreds of thousands of hard-working people who shared the collective dream that Sanders would become the POTUS. This is known as Cognitive Surplus.

Donations, phone banking, going door to door, and participating in rallies were all activities accelerated by the power of the Internet. Sanders forever changed what politics is about by expanding grassroots efforts with millennials, many of whom would not even have participated in the political process if not for the social media and news sites that made them more aware of current events.

It would have been impossible without the efforts of the collective.

Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky, an American writer who coined the term “Cognitive Surplus”, mentions in this book of the same name the “assumed silence of the average citizen” where ordinary individuals are “perfectly able to make intellectual sense of that world” (Shirky, 2010, p. 61–62). Luckily, technology has not allowed to express that intellect, which has created a collective power that has shifted what politics stands for in the United States. It’s now more about the people than ever.

In today’s world, “cognitive surplus allows people to behave in increasingly generous, public, and social ways, relative to their old status as consumers and couch potatoes…Human motivations change little over the years…but when opportunity changes a lot, behavior will as well, so long as the opportunities appeal to real human motivations” (Shirky, 2010, p. 63).

The opportunity that he is talking about is the spontaneous growth of the Internet community in the past decade. However, individuals need to collectively engage with Internet platforms to truly allow our society to improve and give ordinary citizens more power.

Bernie PB. Retrieved October 21, 2016, from

Marwick, A. E. (2013). A Cultural History of Web 2.0. In Status update: Celebrity, publicity, and branding in the social media age. (pp. 21–72). Yale University Press.

Shirky, C. (2010). Cognitive surplus: How technology makes consumers into collaborators. New York: Penguin Books. Read pp. 42–64 from chapter 2.

Vox (2015, June 2). How Bernie Sanders is winning the Internet Retrieved from