What Shirky says, I think or at least what I think is that the MySpace and lolcats sphere of the internet is useful not necessarily (or not only) in itself but as a gateway drug to a culture of consuming and producing content. Content that, like content through all of human history, will be 99% dreck and 1% genius, the only difference between now and the 19th (or 9th) century being that most of the dreck (though certainly not all, and certainly large bits of the genius) weren’t published because of the limits of technology.
What Shirky says (or at least what I believe) is that MySpace and lolcats make you more likely not less to go on, through serendipitous link-wanderings, to read, say, The American Scene, which in turn makes you more likely to read, say, Dos Passos. And because lolcats and MySpace are participative you don’t just consume content, you create it , these people are also more likely to write interesting things. Because they’re already writing every day. And I think it’s potentially equally Marie-Antoinettish to respond “Well, the kind of people who read lolcats aren’t going to want to read real culture!” Says who? Why not? Because they’re part of the lolcats-and-MySpace set?
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