Networks are necessary, but not sufficient, for social upheaval

My latest Guardian column, "Networks are not always revolutionary," argues that networks are necessary, but not sufficient, for many disruptive commercial, cultural and social phenomena, and that this character has led many people to either overstate or dismiss the role and potential of networked technology in current events:

"For most artists," as the famous Tim O'Reilly aphorism has it "the problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity." To me, this is inarguably true and self-evident - the staying power of this nugget has more to do with its admirable brevity and clarity than its novelty.

And yet, there are many who believe that O'Reilly is mistaken: they point to artists who are well-known, but who still have problems. There are YouTube video-creators who've racked up millions of views; bloggers with millions of readers, visual artists whose work has been appropriated and spread all around the world, such as the photographer Noam Galai, whose screaming self-portrait has found its way into everything from stencil graffiti to corporate logos, all without permission or payment. These artists, say the sceptics, have overcome obscurity, and yet they have yet to find a way to convert their fame to income.

But O'Reilly doesn't say, "Attain fame and you will attain fortune" - he merely says that for most artists, fame itself is out of their grasp.

Networks are not always revolutionary

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