Does the ability for virtually anyone to create a book or a movie diminish the overall quality of media in general? Clay Shirky wrote “Here Comes Everyone”, and now he seems to be saying “And There They Go”.
Yes, getting published
these days is child’s play.
I joked back in the 90′s that the proliferation of literacy and availability of desktop publishing tools would decimate the general quality of available reading material across the board within a few years. My implication being that if EVERYONE has the ability to write and print a book, they WILL. It seems everyone’s an expert on something, and everyone has an opinion, and frankly, I’m inclined to agree with what Dirty Harry said about opinions. In any case, when I originally said this, the web was in its infancy. Little did I know that not many years later, this same principle would apply to virtually any topic or any aspect of life, and with a multitude of new channels (YouTube, Social Networks, Blogs, Podcasts) for delivering content. This obviously has its upside, in the form of things like crowdsourcing, but it clearly has its downside as well. One of the obvious examples of this would be splogging by multi-level marketers or search-rank-obsessed bloggers; organic search results lately are cluttered with blogs, and as this article points out, the quality and credibility of the information provided by these sources is often questionable (and yes, I’m aware of the irony of making that remark on a WordPress-powered web site). The same sort of access that makes this user-generated content possible also exists in the fields of design, manufacturing, and communications technology, so we end up with a mind-boggling array of ways to do things we didn’t know we needed to do, using nicely-designed devices. I’ve had several experiences in just the past few months with failing to connect with someone in my social network, precisely because of the multiple channels available, i.e.: Facebook, e-mail, texting, and mobile phone. Because of all of this, I sometimes feel like the dystopian future suggested in the movie Brazil is happening around us, right now. And sometimes I feel like I’m the only one pondering these ideas regularly. Which is why I was glad to run across The Shock Of Inclusion, an insightful piece that Clay Shirky wrote for Edge.org. I still haven’t read his book Here Comes Everybody, but I certainly will after reading this article; he broadly touches on these topics in a much more articulate fashion than I have here, pointing out, for example, that “It is our misfortune to live through the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race, a misfortune because surplus always breaks more things than scarcity. Scarcity means valuable things become more valuable, a conceptually easy change to integrate. Surplus, on the other hand, means previously valuable things stop being valuable, which freaks people out.” Well said, Mr. Shirky. I’ll just be getting back to creating some surplus now.