Shirky: Net is a kayak, driven by its environment

Clay Shirky continues to discuss Wikipedia, folksonomies, and other bottom-up collaborative knowledge-management tools.

But this is where the 'acceptance' half comes in. It doesn't matter whether we "accept" folksonomies, because we're not going to be given that choice. The mass amateurization of publishing means the mass amateurization of cataloging is a forced move. I think Liz's examination of the ways that folksonomies are inferior to other cataloging methods is vital, not because we'll get to choose whether folksonomies spread, but because we might be able to affect how they spread, by identifying ways of improving them as we go.

To put this metaphorically, we are not driving a car, with gas, brakes, reverse and a lot of choice as to route. We are steering a kayak, pushed rapidily and monotonically down a route determined by the enviroment. We have a (very small) degree of control over our course in this particular stretch of river, and that control does not extend to being able to reverse, stop, or even significantly alter the direction we're moving in.

These paragraphs could just as readily apply to changes in copyright, lossily compressed music, or spam: they are characteristics inherent in the ecology itself. The discussion needs to center around how to exist in their presence, not how to change them.