In my first post I introduced the idea that new technology can only effect societal change once it becomes ubiquitous or invisible. When Web 2.0 tools become ubiquitous everyone becomes a content creator. This is what Chris Anderson calls the democratisation of production in his book, The Long Tail. Shirky argues that once the lines blur between producers or publishers and consumers there is a fundamental change in the way our society operates, that "the category of 'consumer' is now a temporary behavior rather than a permanent identity." (Here Comes Everybody, p. 108). The result is that previously impossible things start occuring.
The hallmark of revolution is that the goals of the revolution cannot be contained by the institutional structure of the existing society. As a result, either the revolutionaries are put down, or some of those institutions are altered, replaced, or destroyed. We are plainly witnessing a restructuring of the media businesses, but their suffering isn't unique, it's prophetic. All businesses are media businesses, because whatever else they do, all businesses rely on managing of information for two audiences - employees and the world. The increase in the power of both individuals and groups, outside traditional organisational structures, is unprecedented. Many institutions we rely on today will not survive this change without significant alteration, and the more an institution or industry relies on information as its core product, the greater and more complete the change will be. (my emphasis)
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, p. 107
What is the role of Britannica in the age of Google and Wikipedia? I think they're trying to work that out themselves. What role do reference librarians have when only 1% of college students begin their information searches at a library? (OCLC Perceptions report, 2005).
I think that information is the core product of libraries and that the sharing of information now and into the future will profoundly affect how libraries operate. What do you think?