Monday, January 17, 2011

If this is a blog post about #dr11, what's it doing here

Vitae and not on the Digital Researcher blog?

In his recent book Cognitive Surplus, Clay Shirky has a nice discussion of "Gutenberg economics" and how digital content changes the publication process. He concludes:
A lot of new kinds of media have emerged since Gutenberg: images and sounds were encoded onto objects, from photographic plates to music CDs; electromagnetic waves were harnessed to create radio and TV. All these subsequent revolutions, as different as they were, still had the core of Gutenberg economics: enormous investment costs. It's expensive to own the means of production, whether it is a printing press or a TV tower, which makes novelty a fundamentally high-risk operation. If it's expensive to own and manage the means of production or if it requires a staff you're in a world of Gutenberg economics. And wherever you have Gutenberg economics, whether you are a Venetian publisher or a Hollywood producer, you’re going to have fifteenth-century risk management as well, where the producers have to decide what's good before showing it to the audience. In this world almost all media was produced by "the media," a world we all lived in up until a few years ago.
Shirky also has his own take on Nicholas Carr's view of digital sharecropping - where the Web 2.0 robber barons own, or at least claim rights to, the content you produce.
Services that help us share things thrive precisely because they make easier and often cheaper for us to do things we're already inclined to do. One function of the market, in other words, is to provide platforms for us to engage in the things we value doing outside the market, whether those platforms are bars or websites. The fifteenth­ century model of media production didn't allow for that kind of sharing, because its inherent cost and risk meant professionals were required at every step. Now they’re not.
I want Facebook to help me share the content I post there with my friends (so I need to grant them certain rights in order for them to do so). In exactly the same way, I want Blogger to help me to share the content I post here with a research community who share my interests. By doing so, we both gain. I could publish the same thoughts on the Digital Researcher blog, but since, after many years of my hard work, this site already attracts a daily audience of several thousand readers, I prefer to place it here, in my shop window. And since I publish it under a Creative Commons licence, I encourage anyone who is interested in what I have to say to take and reuse my output (with appropriate attribution).

No-one ever says "give me a copy of your phone number". Digital content published under an appropriate licence makes you free to reuse (or ignore) my content as you wish. It's not costing me anything.