…E pur si muove - - thinking about this as I’m working through people’s gut feeling that we can’t make money giving away public domain resources - - giving away resources at all. And yet we’ve provided free access to our museums and research centers for over 100 years…
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”—
All of this seems to offer the grandmotherly option between Starkman and the FON crew — “You’re both right, dear. We need institutions and we need experiments.” Even given this hybridization, though, our views diverge: Plan A assumes that experiments should be spokes to the newspapers’ hub, their continued role as the clear center of public interest journalism assured, and on the terms previously negotiated.
Plan B follows Jonathan Stray’s observations about the digital public sphere: in a world where Wikipedia is a more popular source of information than any newspaper, maybe we won’t have a clear center anymore. Maybe we’ll just have lots of overlapping, partial, competitive, cooperative attempts to arm the public to deal with the world we live in.
Some of the experiments going on today, small and tentative as they are, will eventually harden into institutional form, and that development will be as surprising as the penny press subsidizing journalism for seven generations. The old landscape had institutions and so will the new one, but this doesn’t imply continuity.
“No medium has ever survived the indifference of 25 year olds.
…if you believe, as I do, that many of those [newspaper publishing] institutions are so mismatched to the task at hand that most of them face a choice, at best, between radical restructure and outright collapse, well, in that case, you’d probably find the smartest 25 year olds you know, and try to convince them that now would be a pretty good time to start working on Plan B.”—Clay Shirky, Institutions, Confidence, and the News Crisis December 2, 2011
“Twentieth-century beliefs about who could produce and consume public messages, about who could coordinate group action and how, and about the inherent and fundamental link between intrinsic motivations and privation actions, all turned out to be nothing more than long-term accidents. Those accidents are now being undone by new opportunities, created by us, for one another, using abilities afforded to us by new tools. The driving force…is the ability of loosely coordinated groups with a shared culture to perform tasks more effectively than individuals, more effectively than markets using price signals, and more effectively than governments using managerial direction.”—Shirky: Long-term accidents