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TED on Sunday: Clay Shirky on the Transformed Media Landscape

July 12, 2009

There have been four transformations of the media landscape significant enough to qualify as revolutions, argues Clay Shirky in this penetrating, fast-paced talk. The complex of innovations known as the printing press, which turned Europe upside down in the fifteenth century; the invention of telegraphy (and later telephony), which engendered real-time two-way conversation over distances; the invention of photography and the phonograph, which sparked a revolution in recorded media; and the harnessing of the electromagnetic spectrum, which led to radio and television and the broadcasting of sound and images through the air.

Today, thanks to the Internet, says Shirky, we are living through a fifth media revolution that will make the others seem trivial by comparision. And that's because the Internet is both the first medium to combine one-to-many with many-to-many patterns of communication as well as a platform for all other media. What that means in practical terms is that members of your audience are now talking to each other and have become producers of media as well as consumers of it. The old communications paradigm -- professionals broadcasting one message to many -- is dead. And the challenge of the new paradigm is clear: How to work with members of your audience to craft different messages for different audiences. You can't control this tectonic shift, says Shirky. You can only hope to harness it. Let the games innovation begin. (Filmed: June 2009; Running time: 17:03)

Liked this talk? Try one of these:

-- Mitch Nauffts

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