Feb 23, 2010

Everybody can ... learnings from translating Homer's Odyssey to Clay Shirky - Here Comes Everybody - Ch3

Love the opening quote in Chapter 3:

"Our social tools remove older obstacles to public expression, and thus remove the bottlenecks that characterized mass media. The result is the mass amateurization of efforts previously reserved for media professionals." p55

I was still in politics back in late 2002, when I grasped the potential for Web 1.0 to get the message out, when stymied by the conventional profesional media who were locked into dominant narrative paradigms. Although I had been experimenting with its potential for politics since 1996. However by 2002 the number of people with the internet in their homes had exploded - so self publishing could reach far wider. I began publishing far more material onto my political team's website. And the reach widened - even internationally.

"A profession exists to solve a hard problem, one that requires some sort of specialization... Most professions exist because there is a scarce resource that requires ongoing management ... the scarcity of the resource itself creates the need for a professional class ... professionals become gatekeepers, simultaneously providing and controlling access to information, entertainment, communication ..."  p 57

However as I found  from 20 years in politics - you can learn, by trial & error, how to do media releases - to attract & sustain the attention of the professional media. I like, many, spend a fair amount of my time in my day job writing reports, memoes etc. Basically you tailor the article etc to the audience. One style for Engineering reports, another for web pages - yet another for political media releases.

So as a politician I found, that if you learnt well, then the professional journalists didn't need to make too many changes to your media releases. Continually improving word processing & desk top publishing over the last 10 years made it all even easier. And technology evolution meant that no longer did you need to hand deliver media releases to the journalists' offices - initially you faxed them in - then emailed them (much easier for journo's to copy'n'paste too !) - and finally self published your own newsletters & web pages. And now Twitter & blogs are taking it all to a new level !

And community pressure groups learnt the same lessons - especially if they believed themselves to be locked out by the professional media.

As Clay Shirky observed "From now on news can break into public consciousness without the traditional press weighing in.Indeed, the news media can end up covering the story because something has broken into public consciousnesss via other means. .... The same idea, published in dozens or hundreds of places, can have an idea, published in dozens or hundreds of places, can have an amplifying effect that outweighs the verdict from the smaller number of professional outlets ... individual weblogs are not merely alternative sites of publishing : they are alternatives to publishing itself" p64-66

Remember the street protests in Iran, in June 2009, tweeted on Twitter, but only belatedly picked up by CNN ?

As described by Shirky, we have an "abundance of publishing options" p 73 .. perhaps as he indicates it is one of the greatest paradigm shifts since the printing press ... "The spread of literacy after the invention of movable type ensured not the success of the scribal profession but its end. Instead of mass professionalization, the spread of literacy was a process of mass amateurization " p 79

Shirky's pronouncements should be well heeded - the influence of social media has become very wide - with challenging paradigms for professional journalism. However my own local newspaper has embraced Twitter part of its suite of communications. Led by their tweep Editor - they're tweeting breaking news & local community interest items - headlining for the next day's print edition & in particular "get the full story" in their bumper Saturday edition

A similar phenomenon occurred in 1946, when Penguin began publishing its first translations of the classics - millions of copies of Homer's Odyssey immediately sold in that post WWII year. Suddenly the classics were no longer the preserve of academics & students who could read Greek, Latin etc etc  ..... By the 1970's, the study of Latin & Greek had collapsed, not only in high schools, but also in the university sciences etc.

Shirky pronounces that such mass amateurization is not just causing upheaval for "newspapers or to media in general but to the global society." p 80

But is it possible for mass amateurization to really spread across to the professions in general ? Isn't such a suggestion just too ambitious ?

Back to Chapter 1 / Chapter 2

Forward to   Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 / Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9 / Chapter 10 / Chapter 11 / Epilogue

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