It’s not a revolution if nobody loses
May 9, 2010 1 Comment
Where Jaron Lanier is a tech skeptic, who warns against the implicit digital maoism of Web 2.0, Clay Shirky is a tech evangelist, who praises social media for enabling entirely new forms of cooperation. For some reason I like both.
That’s because their worldviews aren’t actually in conflict, they just deal with technology at different levels. At least that’s how I read them. Shirky looks at the amazing possibilities social media opens up here and now. Lanier looks at the drawbacks, – and at the amazing possibilites we don’t have here and now, and haven’t even thought of yet.
Shirky’s argument is that social media lowers the transaction costs of group efforts, allowing people to find like-minded people and cooperate with them. Traditionally, group effort required central coordination and formal hierarchies. Organized effort required organizations. Now it can be done with social media.
That’s mostly for the good, but the factors that reduce transaction costs for the opposition in Belarus and Iran, also reduce it for terrorists, conspiracy theorists and anorectics. You get the bad with the good. But Shirky mostly focuses on the good.
You can choose to see a conflict with skeptics like Lanier here, but we’re well past the “Internet – for or against?!!” debates of the 2000’s. It’s not like we can turn the clock back. This is the world we live in, and it’s not all black or all white.