On October 8, 2009, Sarah Dahnke, a graduate student in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, wanted to make a cup of tea. She, like many of her classmates, had brought a mug from home, labeled it with her name, and placed it on the shelf near the water cooler. Since she usually leaves the mug on the same end of the same shelf, Sarah was surprised when she arrived to find her mug was not in its usual place. She searched around in other mug storage places, noting that the large amount of other mugs might make it hard for her to see her mug right away. She enlisted the help of a classmate and faculty member but was unsuccessful in locating the mug. This saddened Sarah, since she had acquired this mug in high school and had owned it for more than 10 years. She was also saddened because she had to make her tea in a wasteful paper cup. It wasn’t that she minded other people using her mug, which was placed out in the open with all the other mugs; she just was hoping to use the mug now and again when she wanted some tea.
Sarah returned to class, complaining about the loss of a mug in such a safe, communal, cooperative environment. Molly Schwartz, a fellow ITP student/Northeast Oklahoma native, heard the complaints and remembered that she had spotted Sarah’s mug earlier that morning in the hands of one Clay Shirky. Sarah’s mind was blown. Clay Shirky? What would he want with her mug? Of all the other mugs in the world, why did he choose hers? Sarah sent a quick email about the incident to the ITP student listserv, where she received double confirmation that Clay Shirky was indeed sipping coffee from Sarah’s Bartlesville High School mug earlier that day.
This story does have a happy ending, though. Arturo Vidich, dancer, hacker, and all-around brave fellow, wrestled Sarah’s mug from Clay Shirky’s hands, forced him to wash it and returned it to Sarah hours after its theft.
Don’t let this happen to you! Find out what you can do to prevent Clay Shirky from stealing your mug. Who knows? He may have already done it!