Top-down to loosely coordinated: institutions vs collaboration

Clay Shirky: Institutions vs. collaboration

How to gather pictures of the Mermaid Parade, a very esoteric event a Coney Island? Classic answer would be to form an institution. This takes management, structure, and costs; it’s gong to be limited because you can’t afford everything. You also create a professional class, photographers.

On the other hand, you might leave the individuals where they are. Have them tag (label) photos they upload to an online photo service (Flickr). You arrange the coordination in the group. You can’t control things but it doesn’t cost much.

Flickr replaced planning with coordination. (Like when you got your mobile phone.) Now you can decide as you go.

Consider Open Source. Sparks of genius way out on the long tail can make a change that improves Linux forever. This should put institutions like Microsoft into cardiac arrest.

Blogs are an example of mass amateurization. Are bloggers journalists? It doesn’t matter. That’s the wrong question.

Once the infrastructure becomes generically available, the logic of the support group is revealed to be accessible to anyone, negative and well as possible.

This is a revolution because there’s a change in equilibrium. The printing press kicked off 200 years of chaos. This time: maybe 50 years in which loosely coordinated groups gain high leverage. Since we can see this coming, we might as well get good at it.