Must-Watch Clay Shirky TED Lecture

John Gilmore once said “the Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” As Clay Shirky notes, that was illustrated very clearly in Iran this past week as wired Iranians were able to communicate and organize demonstrations against the election results.

Shirky elegantly puts into words what we’re dealing with: the Internet is the first medium that makes possible the “many-to-many” communication model which renders obsolete a great many long-held conventions (from when the media was limited to one-to-one or one-to-many). This helps me better explain the implications for two spheres of thought very important to me:

1. Journalism and the Future of Democracy

One of the things that worries me about the idea that we’re coming to rely more and more on citizen journalists and less on professionals is the fact that we stand to lose the most important function professional journalists provide: investigative journalism.

If, however, the “many-to-many” paradigm established by the Internet (reinforced by social media) – will it matter? If anyone with a conscience can leak anything to the entire web-accessible world – how will any organization public or private be able to keep anything a secret? As for-profit news entities are shuttered, it strikes me that one of the most important things we can do is build up strong legal protections for whistleblowers and encourage platforms like WikiLeaks.

2. Education

Think about this quote in the context of the future of education:

“In a world where media is global, social, ubiquitous and cheap … In a world of media where the former audience are increasingly full participants … in that world, media is less and less often about crafting a single message to be consumed by individuals. It is more and more often a way of creating an environment for convening and supporting groups. […] The question we all face now is ‘how can we make best use of this medium even though it means changing the way we’ve always done it?'”

Anyone think for a second that the next generation of students are going to have patience for an educational process that doesn’t welcome their collaboration at every level (from curriculum design to assessment)?

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