How Do We Improve The Values Of The Web? [PSFK NYC 2012]

Jonathan Harris, founder of Cowbird, believes that we need to find a teachable moment in the information we share online to create content with lasting value.

At the PSFK CONFERENCE NYC 2012 today, our diverse lineup of speakers are sharing valuable insights and ideas about technology, business and creativity.

Jonathan Harris is known for his innovative work that explores how humans relate to technology and to each other. He is the co-creator of We Feel Fine and has exhibited around the world at museums such as MoMA and Le Centre Pompidou.

His latest venture, Cowbird, is an online community that aims to offer a deeper and longer-lasting way for people to tell stories about their lives. Jonathan explains his personal approach to self expression:

I spend a lot of time in solitude, and a lot of time in nature. I also go swimming every day. When you go to the woods, or to the desert, or to water, and you consider your ideas, if the ideas seem timeless and valid in places like that, then they are probably very good ideas.

As a slower-paced alternative to services like Twitter, Cowbird aims to be a rich public repository of human wisdom and experience. Jonathan is thinking about how his offline lifestyle mimics his goals for his online life — natural, holistic, contemplative.

At today’s conference, Jonathan spoke about four popular trends that are manifesting themselves strongly in our online behaviour that need to be monitored closely and shifted:

  • Compression: Moving towards a point that can’t be superseded.
  • Disposability: Putting things out there that are constantly updated and instantly erased by something new.
  • Curation: Participating in overdirected self-expression, assembling lists of something cool, reflagging content — leading to a dramatic decline in emotional self-expression.
  • Self-promotion: Hyperbolic online personae — turning your own life into an advertisement.

Jonathan set out his philosophy for what kind of information we should be sharing online:

There’s certain stuff worth telling stories about (a lot of stuff online doesn’t meet that criteria). What is important about a story is to find a teachable moment, something you’ve noticed that no one else has, and capture those things that no one else has been exposed to. We need to put forth beautiful and believable visions, because people will start to believe them to be true.

For more insights from Jonathan check out PSFK’s  Need to Know Magazine

Jonathan Harris / @jjhnumber27

Previously on PSFK:

Are Self-Reflection And Timelessness Possible On The Internet? [PSFK NYC 2012]

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