No comment on the bulk of Clay Shirky’s mega meta-journalism speech, because I haven’t read it all, but this little chunk jumped out at me. It’s a macro point, much bigger than journalism:
To use the historical analogy from Eisenstein, from The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, there was a long hundred years between the Protestant Reformation and the Treaty of Westphalia. And that was a hundred years in which people almost literally did not know what to think. The old institutions were visibly not functioning any longer, but the nation-state as a new organizing principle was not yet in place. And those were, for many people, not a great hundred years.
A time “in which people almost literally did not know what to think.” That sounds pretty familiar to me. So much is now unmoored, at every level. What does good work look like? How should you organize your life economically? To which institutions should we be pledging our allegiance? How do we—especially as writers, thinkers, creative people—imagine and identify success?
I love the etymology of the word “confusion.” There are old threads of overthrow and combination (“-fusion”) in there along with the modern notion of mental mixed-up-ness.
So forget the Great Recession. Get ready for a Great Confusion.