Sunday, April 07, 2002

coup de des

Dave Rogers points to a new piece by Clay Shirky that addresses some of the issues bandied about a while ago on this blog when Clay was still in evidence. But he takes a somewhat different tack, beginning from some math models to distinguish his notion of community from passive, anonymous large audences.

Shirky is pretty adamantly convinced that there is a numerical death sentence upon the life of a community - which he defines as groups whose members actively communicate with one another. He also appears to think that viral communication occurs not within or between communities themselves, but flow from communities to mass media back to communities. He therefore does not see the phenomenon of blogging as a means of overcoming the "great divide" between communities and audience.

I think any effort to understand changes to mass media resulting from technology needs to get past Clay, who stands like Cerberus at hell's door, wagging his three heads, two of them filled with math and frightfully excellent logic. The third head might be his heel of Achilles, as it were. It's where he seems immune to the possibility that something other than active connectedness is necessary for full-fledged community. There are souls in the world whom one will never meet or know, but to whom one - we - are allied by something far more binding than overt modes of human interaction, or possibly even common ties of language, country, or religion. The wild-ass wager of gonzo might just be that "we" create communities through "voice" and that these ties do create possibilities of large-scale social networks that defy the very high odds he lays out for us so well.

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