Monday, February 23, 2009

Rethinking the Questions

The following 20-minute video (from the O'Reilly Radar website) is an interview with Clay Shirky, who consults, teaches and writes on the social and economic effects of Internet technology. He raises a number of interesting points, two of which particularly caught my attention.

First of all, he says that publishers need to rethink the role of daily newspapers. Do people really want or need a daily newspaper when there is constantly-updated information available online?

Shirky says it’s important to rethink the questions and not simply to reproduce newspapers in a different format. He cites the example of the man who invented the steamboat. The successful model was not his first attempt – that had been an experiment to use steam to power the oars on a rowboat.

Shirky comments that digital technology has lowered the cost of failure. We can experiment more because the start-up costs are less. However, we have to be prepared to pull out fast if our experiments aren’t successful. The person who is learning and adapting the fastest will be the most successful.

Shirky’s book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations was published in 2008 and looks at the ways in which technology can support group action.


Stephanie V said...

A very focussed comment:
Unfortunately, newspapers have to think differently about how they present the news online. What works as print in the hand does not translate well to the screen. When we read a newspaper, we have more ability to filter what we read than online versions allow. That's why I'm sticking with my print copy.

Penny said...

Agreed. And Shirky talks at some length about the fact that information overload is not something new. It's been around since the 1500s when there were more books than a person can read in a lifetime. What has changed is that the old filters no longer work, and it's very difficult for us to sort out the useful information from the useless information when we're online. We need new filters to help us sort and assess the information that is available online.