Response to Clay Shirky’s TED speech

1 07 2009

The combination of global messaging systems such as Twitter and the ability to upload a message, video or photo from anywhere in the world has transformed the audience into the content producers. In his TED speech, Clay Shirky pointed out that the one-way communication of TV and print dominated the 20th century. But things have changed dramatically. Not only can the audience talk back, the audience can also talk to one another, Shirky said.

I agree with Shirky’s view. Everyone can now take part in the conversation, and everyone has a role in telling the story. Through Twitter, Facebook and other means, thousands of people can contribute to the collective consciousness of a story at once. I first learned about Michael Jackson’s death from a college friend’s tweet (and soon after, hundreds of tweets from news organizations and other users). I had left work at around 2 pm and closed Tweetdeck. When I got home at 2:30, I opened Tweetdeck and quickly realized how much the global conversation had changed in just half an hour. (Of course, were I fortunate enough to have an iPhone, I would have discovered this immediately.) TMZ had reported Jackson’s death, mainstream media sources were trying to confirm it, and millions of fans were expressing their grief. A few weeks earlier, I learned of the shooting at the US Holocaust Museum from a tweet posted by an editor at NPR in Washington. Soon after, Twitter users who worked nearby were posting their accounts and adding to the story.

“It isn’t when the shiny new tools show up that their uses start permeating society,” Shirky said in his speech. “It’s when everybody is able to take them for granted. Because now the media is increasingly social, innovation can happen anywhere that people can take for granted the idea that we’re all in this together. We’re starting to see a media landscape in which innovation is happening everywhere and moving from one spot to another.”

I think we’re nearing the point when everybody will take these tools for granted. I’m no longer amazed when I learn about news from Twitter or when someone uploads a video of a train accident. I expect to get my news from Twitter; I expect to see cell phone video footage of news events.




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