Archives » March 12th, 2008

March 12, 2008

Tools and Transformations

Tools and Transformations, by Clay Shirky, in which he takes to task the people who complain that the internet is going to put newspapers out of business, or otherwise kill culture (in books like The Cult of the Amateur), while forgetting that plenty of church scribes were put out of a job when the printing press came along.

The problem with this view is that there is no intellectually coherent conservative position with regard to the printing press. Most of the defenders of current culture don’t even try to explain why it was OK that the printing press destroyed scribal production, but not OK that the internet threatens newsprint, or why a proliferation of new creators and experimentation with new forms was good in 1508 but bad in 2008. It is simply assumed that revolutions in the past were good but those in the future are bad (and of course all of this is painted on the broadest possible social canvas, to hide the “Life was better when I was younger” flavor of the argument.)