En1420 Analysis 12.1

In: English and Literature

Submitted By jlairson718
Words 807
Pages 4
The piece begins with an acknowledgment of how much junk the Internet contains, the “endless streams of mediocrity, eroding cultural norms about quality and acceptability.” But then Shirky contains it, stating “that’s what always happens.” Every time a technology brings an “increase in freedom to create or consume media,” he argues, the rules of communication shift and we have a period of apparent chaos and decline. Hence, the digital setting “alarms people accustomed to the restrictions of the old system, convincing them that the new media will make young people stupid.”
That term “alarm” is a suggestive one. No doubt there are Luddites and technophobes and other alarmists out there who simply react against change. But what about people who approve of some elements of the technology and disapprove of other elements? The term “alarm” doesn’t include them, for alarm disallows any ambivalence. It does, however, allow one to put the other side into a pathological condition. Shirky further diminishes it in the next sentence by claiming that we’ve seen it many times before: “This fear dates back to at least the invention of movable type.”
The translation, publication, and distribution of the Bible is his example. In effect, he says, the printing press fostered the Reformation, “which did indeed destroy the Church’s pan-European hold on intellectual life.” It also brought about other kinds of writing, popular and technical, which “had the effect of increasing, rather than decreasing, the intellectual range and output of society.”
No doubt, yes. But what makes the situation back then parallel to the situation now? Shirky claims that “we are living through a similar explosion of publishing capability today,” but his more specific example from the past gainsays the similarity. The example is the scientific revolution, whose “essential insight . . . was peer review, the…...

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