Never heard of him? Clay Shirky is the name du jour in internet networking and social media. He has bad news for those addicted to print newspapers — you know, the kind you can hold in your hand that leave ink on your fingers: it’s days are numbered. If you are 25 or younger, you’re probably already reading all the news on a computer screen already. “And to put it in one bleak sentence, no medium has ever survived the indifference of 25-year-olds.” Paywalls, he says, won’t work — “I don’t think the numbers add up” — and so far he’s had an uncanny tendency to be right.
“The final thing I’d say about optimism is this. If we took the loopiest, most moonbeam-addled Californian utopian internet bullshit, and held it up against the most cynical, realpolitik-inflected scepticism, the Californian bullshit would still be a better predictor of the future. Which is to say that, if in 1994 you’d wanted to understand what our lives would be like right now, you’d still be better off reading a single copy of Wired magazine published in that year than all of the sceptical literature published ever since.”
For an opposing opinion, go no farther than Prince. For what it’s worth (and it’s not worth much), Prince disagrees in a different British newspaper today:
“The Internet’s completely over,” he said. “I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it, and then they get angry when they can’t get it.
The internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good.
They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.”
UPDATE: One vote for Prince! It comes from Forbes magazine:
… he has the Internet completely figured out. In the digital world, where music is free and we’re inundated with easily-duplicated information, what is scarce? Human contact. Things that vanish in time. Things that are handcrafted, or have to be sought out. Things that identify your personal connection to a passion. … From Prince’s point of view, there’s something to be said for making yourself scarce.