Clay Shirky: “We’re collectively living through 1500”

The year 1500 witnessed an information revolution, when Caxton’s printing press really started to impact society in ways that were difficult to predict. Clay Shirky likens that era to now in his latest article Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, which is well worth your time.

It’s a great conversation starter, especially if you’re in the news business or indeed any form of “content” business.

After reading such an insightful person put the following, your response could be one of fear or excitement. It may depend on what business you’re in.

So who covers all that news if some significant fraction of the currently employed newspaper people lose their jobs?

I don’t know. Nobody knows. We’re collectively living through 1500, when it’s easier to see what’s broken than what will replace it. The internet turns 40 this fall. Access by the general public is less than half that age. Web use, as a normal part of life for a majority of the developed world, is less than half that age. We just got here. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen.

If you have a spare weekend you could also:

– Watch a Shirky speech on video

– Plough through some analysis on pages that link to the Shirky piece

– Peek into Shirky’s research process via his Delicious bookmarks

    Have fun. You never know, you might find a radical new model for a news service.