These different kinds of participation don’t mean that we should never have lolcats and fan fiction communities–it’s just that anything at the personal and communal end of the spectrum isn’t in much danger of going away, or even of being under-provisioned. It’s hard to imagine a future where someone asks himself, “Where, oh where can I share a picture of my cute kitten?” Almost by definition, if people want that kind of value, it will be there. It’s not so simple with public and especially civic value. As Gary Kamiya has noted of today’s web, “You can always get what you want, but you can’t always get what you need.” The kinds of things we need are produced by groups pursuing public value.
We should care more about public and civic value than about personal or communal value because society benefits more from them, but also because public and civic value are harder to create. The amount of public and civic value we get out of cognitive surplus is an open question, and one strongly affected by the culture of the groups doing the sharing, and by the culture of the larger society that those groups are embedded in. As Dean Kamen, the inventor and entrepreneur puts it, “In a free culture, you get what you celebrate.”
— Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus