My last post on Here Comes Everybody

…actually, I can’t promise that this will be the last. If I had an MLTDA book club, I’d make Clay Shirky‘s book the first read. The book was way too good and should be on the top of anyone’s list who is interested in how technology works to bring people together, not just what it is. It’s the type of book that took me so long to read because I’d finish a few pages and be blown away that I needed to write something of my own in response.

One of the points that Shirky drives home in the epilogue is that technology has changed so much and many people are looking at it as if we have the power to steer where things are going. He argues that “We are steering a kayak, pushed rapidily and monotonically down a route determined by the environment.” Doing some digging, it looks like this thesis of Shirky’s has been hanging around for awhile. Thanks to BoingBoing for pointing me back to the 2005 blog post, which I in turn used to make this:


I stole the photo from Flickr user visbeek, who actually has a great caption that describes the scenery and kayaking along with the image.

Now, I spent enough time as a kid around lakes and boating, so I really enjoy this image. I’m completely in agreement on the idea that when you are out there in the world, you can only do so much because of the environment. There’s three options:

1) Try and paddle upstream.
2) Go with the flow and take advantage of the current.
3) Get out of the water.

From a communication and media standpoint, the metaphor of a kayak and river are incredibly vivid. The river is going to keep moving – i.e., new communication channels will only grow and become the way of life. For those stuck in old media ways, I’d argue that option 1 gets you nowhere and option 3 is a waste of your time.

The media world will embrace those who keep going downstream, and everyone else will be left behind. So – where will you end up? You can certainly find me kayaking downstream.

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One Comment on “My last post on Here Comes Everybody”

  1. […] analogy if fantastic (I still stick to my – er, Clay Shirky’s – kayaking upstream metaphor as my go-to metaphor), and Schoenfeld explained it in a weekend post about his exchange […]


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