Sunday, April 27, 2008

GEL 2008: Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky is a professor who studies media, intently. During his GEL talk this year, he spoke about the changing role of newspapers, and all major media outlets for that matter. And his ideas are thought-provoking. Newspapers would be wise to follow his lead in order to stay alive.

Newspapers were begun as a way to disseminate information. Radio and TV have followed this same lead. Today, they are not so much information designators (bloggers can on-line news sources can do that much faster and much more conveniently). They are now taking on the role of being "places" where coordination is happening. Publishing is changing its purpose from printing to acting.

In his book, "Here Comes Everybody", Shirky discusses how individuals are using major media channels to organize themselves, be it for social justice, to demand better services, or to get the word out about a cause, even though they themselves do not belong to the newspaper staffs. Said another way, we as a society have moved from following news to the news following us, or creating and reporting the news ourselves. Mass media's challenge is to figure out how to best serve the people by providing new, more useful coordinating tools.

My favorite quotes from his talk, "Thinking is for doing." ~ William James and "If you have the same problem for a long time, maybe it's not a problem. It's a fact."

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