Librarian+Humanities Prof=Clay Shirky

9 July 2010 at 12:51 Leave a comment

A rather rambling interview with Clay Shirky:

CS: You said to me on Twitter the other day, “Oh, you’re secretly an elitist.” I remember thinking I’m actually, I think, kind of openly an elitist.

AK: You’ve said it now. That’s the end of your career (LAUGHS)

CS: That’s the end, right (LAUGHS). I’ve always adopted the Bill Burroughs mantra, which is, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” Which is to say that if there is any intrinsic value in writing or expressing yourself or taking a photo, it’s worth doing even if the results are mediocre. Whenever the production maw has opened more widely, whether it’s cheap photography or it’s weblogs, the average quality falls. The average quality of a piece of writing is now lower because the denominator has exploded. The question becomes how do you find the good stuff in this much larger group. I am not somebody who believes everyone is equally talented; talent remains unequally distributed. What’s interesting now is that the old gatekeepers for identifying, anointing, and promoting talent are different in this generation than they were previously.

also and revealingly:

CS: One of the things I noticed doing the first book is that you learn a lot of things doing a book that are lessons you can only apply to doing another book. They are really specialized things you do that aren’t about the argument you’re making, but about being part of the publishing industry. In a way, the notion of authorship retains it power in part because that hazing ritual is still high enough that, once you’re on the far side of it, doing another book is the most cost-effective use of your time, because you’ve already mastered these somewhat arcane skills. To the degree that writing–long-form writing in particular–becomes more broadly produced, I think the question will be reversed: how can we make the skills that publishers have mastered now flow outwards to new forms of long-form writing? That requires new business models that are yet to be on the horizon. And I’m not the business model guy.


Entry filed under: writing.

a Doorbell restored Je vous remercie, TSF

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What I’ve been reading:

  • James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, L.L.D. (London, 14 King William Street, Strand: William P. Nimmo, 1876). 5 years ago
  • Marsilio Ficino, Letters of Marsilio Ficino, v. 3, trans. Language Dept. School of Economic Science, London (New York: Gingko Press, 1985). 5 years ago
  • Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988). 6 years ago
  • Stephanie Kallos, Broken for You (New York: Grove Press, 2004). 6 years ago
  • Marsilio Ficino, Letters of Marsilio Ficino, v. 2, trans. Language Dept. School of Economic Science, London (New York: Gingko Press, 1985) 6 years ago

T. Anderson Painter

I am a misanthrope. No one ever believes me, but this seems to prove my point.



2003-2013 T. Anderson Painter
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