Here Comes Everyone

What Clay Shirky writes about for most of Chapter 4 in Here Comes Everybody is the difference between amateur and professional communication. The difference being that professional communication lacks the ability for true one on one response. He makes mention in several points that both these forms of communication are often mistaken for each other. He starts out by using several references to sites like Myspace, where he says that even though at its peak Myspace had millions of users, those users only had an audience of a few dozen people. He states that only Myspace’s parent company News Corp had the true to power to communicate to the entirety of its user base. This communication however is not a true two way communication because it would be impossible for the head of News Corp (Rupert Murdoch) to single handedly respond to the responses he would receive from whatever he would reach out to say. This is what creates the difference between the amateur (user) and the professional (owner). Shirky makes an older reference to this when he alludes that Charles Lindbergh died unsuccessfully trying to personally answer his fan mail.

What this has to do with the rest of the readings in class is that he is reiterating that there always is a top to the communication food chain. The moment when you achieve “fame” ( in his definition it is when you achieve so much popularity through your content that you can no longer keep up with responses with individuals and have to communicate in broad strokes) you are no longer part of the amateur production community.

Other texts we have read in this class have touched on this topic of the difference between types of communication when dealing with mass media. Jean Baudrillard mentions this in depth in the “Speech Without Response” section of his work Requiem for the Media (280). He states, “The Mass Media are anti-mediatory and intransitive. They fabricate non-communication” (280). What he means is that when one reaches a level of out-reach that overtakes the level for one on one response, they then in turn control the conversation.

Now, Baudrillard and Shirky are separated by several decades worth of technological advances, yet their theories are both mention the idea that there is a gatekeeper at the top who sorts through what is considered amateur and professional. Shirky states that for a book to even be considered for publication there has to be at least one other person who believes that others would want to read it. The difference between the two could be that when Baudrillard wrote his piece there was no amateur community and the gatekeeper were more sinister. He thinks that the media of the time goes so far as to make trivial information national news as to cover up stories of real importance (283). With modern mediums of digital distribution there is more of an audience response as to what makes it into the public communication although the old guard still holds power. This is why just as many people have seen YouTube video of a kitten doing something cute, as they have seen Citizen Kane.

Another writer of yesterday who would have something to say about the Shirky piece would be Hans Magnus Enzenberger. In his article Constituents of a Theory of the Media he argues that everyone is manipulated by media and everyone who produces is both manipulator and the manipulated. “There is no such thing as un-manipulated writing, filming or broadcasting. The question is therefore not whether media are manipulated but who manipulates them” (265). Enzenberger believes that everyone influences everyone in a circle. Of course he was talking about a 1970 version of media communication. How this could be applied now is that everyone is a producer and we will see which end the production spectrum will manipulate more the professional or the amateur. Also at what point will the amateur rise above the professional and begin to manipulate the old guard.

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