Gil Scott-Heron passed away earlier this spring, and I’ve been listening and thinking about his song, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (which can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGaRtqrlGy8, among many places). Scott-Heron was mostly singing about how the revolution in African American culture was going to be internal more than external, but since then the phrase “The revolution will not be televised” has taken on other meanings.
One was discussed last week in class when we explored Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everyone. Towards the end, Shirky discusses the fall out from the Beijing earthquakes of 2008, and the brave citizens who used social media to broadcast the violations of their rights. Not suprisingly, the first the western world learned of both the earthquake and the violations was not from mainstream journalists, but everyday citizens using Twitter. The revolution was televised, but not in the way the Chinese government expected or wanted.
There is another revolution happening, this time in New York City. Between a few hundred and thousand people have been protesting corporate greed, and Occupy Wall Street has been slowly gathering steam. It has been pointed out in many places (including here: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/09/27-2#.Toczg62kyOQ.facebook) that it seems to have taken mainstream media a long time to notice, much less acknowelge and cover the movement. The revolution is being televised, but this time mostly by the revolutionaries themselves.
Which brings us (finally!) to librarians. To quote from this week’s reading (Chris Anderon’s The Long Tail). “A once-monolithic industry structure where professionals produced and amateurs consumed is now a two-way marketplace, where anyone can be in any camp at any time” (p. 84). That is what we saw in China, what we’re seeing in New York, and what we’re also seeing in libraries. Anderson likens this to the spirt of early punk-rock, when a-can-do attitude and having something to say were more important than musical skills. The Occupy Wall Street movement has been criticized for having more attitude than articulation, of not being a traditional organized group. That’s the point; they’re the punk-rock of protest movements, the kind we’re probably going to see more of as the “two-way marketplace” that Anderson discusses continues to evolve. Librarians need to respond in kind, to use every tool at our disposal:both bright/shiny AND old and functional. People want to collaborate, at least on some level; 2.o tools give them the platform to do this on a scale greater than ever before (that’s the lesson of Here Comes Everyone).
The lesson of the Long Tail is the rise of the niche interests markets will only perpetuate the need for people to actively participate as opposed to passively recieve. There are many revolutions, some social, some informational. One kind is happening in New York, but another is happening in societys need to feel connected to learning and information. The only real question than as these revolutions are happening, is what role will librarians play?
The revolution(s) will be televised; will librarians be ready?