Tag Archives: Clay Shirky

There’s no turning back

After my earlier post expounding on Clay Shirky’s book, I’d like to focus again on a more recent—and brilliantly bold and stunningly composed—piece by him: Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable. (Written on March 13, it appears to be one of only three entries on his weblog. Hmm?)

He opens the entry with the simple, yet somehow perplexing notion that in 1993 a 14-year-old was sued simply for sharing an article he admired with lots and lots of people. And he closes the entry making the case of why new communication models “will rely on excitable 14-year-olds distributing.”

But sandwiched between references to that 14-year-old (could be the same one we discussed in class…) he makes a shockingly strong case:

Society doesn’t need newspapers.

Amazingly, I couldn’t agree more. It’s an exciting (and scary) time. You’ve got to read it to understand why. Ok, really, read it now.

(Bloggers John Gruber and Colleen Wainwright agree that you should read it.)


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Sharing is a VIP

Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody organizes online group undertakings “as a kind of ladder of activities that are enabled or improved by social tools.” And, he says, “the rungs on the ladder, in order of difficulty, are sharing, cooperation, and collective action.” Ok, I follow this.

He also states that: “The hallmark of a revolution is that the goals of the revolutionaries cannot be contained by the institutional structure of the existing society. As a result, either the revolutionaries are put down, or some of those institutions are altered, replaced, or destroyed. We are plainly witnessing a restructuring of the media business….”

I also buy this, and agree more the viewpoint he describes of philosophers who point to “a distinction between a difference in degree (more of the same) and a difference of kind (something now)” and how “what we are witnessing today is a difference in the degree of sharing so large it becomes a different kind.”

In symbolic terms, I read this as 1+1=3 (not in communist terms, but instead as a representation of how the sum of parts can be greater than…yeah, yeah…)

As I read his text, the underlying theme is clear to me:

New technologies enable us, but take us only so far; our mainstream adoption and our applications of them to how we organize really creates change.

So now, maybe I’m just getting to into semantics (or feel an urge to defend my blog topic), but the rungs on a ladder analogy implies that sharing is the least important. In most of his examples (wikipedia, VOTF, Meet ups, flash mobs, Passenger Bill of Rights) he highlights the cooperation and the collective action as the key players in these “revolutions.”

I’d like to also shine the spotlight how vital the sharing is too.  Instead of a ladder, I think a pyramid shape would be better because the foundation of all of these is sharing. I liken it to the physiological platform on Maslow’s pyramid. Sharing is imperative before we cooperate or act. We need it first, before we can actualize anything.

Just a thought…do you agree?

(I would take my options to Mr. Shirky himself, but his blog is abandoned and I’m not brave enough to email him directly. Let’s see if the finds this post. :))

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