Clay Shirky On The Internet as Methadone

Last month, Clay Shirky told The Observer‘s Felix Gillette about his initial addiction to the internet.

“I would get home from the theater at 11 p.m. and stay on the Internet until 4,” he said. “I thought either I could call myself an addict and get myself to quit. Or I could try and make it my job.”

In a sprawling interview with The Guardian that ran today, Mr. Shirky circles back to talk about addiction to the internet. The internet, it turns out, is television addiciton’s answer to methadone

Shirky does not own a television. Americans watch, collectively, two hundred billion hours of television a year, and if online social media diverts even just a fraction of that time, he argues, that has to be a good thing. “As I say in the book, even the stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act. And I’d still take the most inane collaborative website over someone watching yet another half hour of TV.”

Mr. Shirky also says that is raising his kids, six and nine, in a “very restricted media household.” At the same time, Mr. Shirky is very insistent in the interview that young people will decide what’s what in the future of media:

The final thing I’d say about optimism is this. If we took the loopiest, most moonbeam-addled Californian utopian internet bullshit, and held it up against the most cynical, realpolitik-inflected scepticism, the Californian bullshit would still be a better predictor of the future. Which is to say that, if in 1994 you’d wanted to understand what our lives would be like right now, you’d still be better off reading a single copy of Wired magazine published in that year than all of the sceptical literature published ever since.

We’ve never thought of Wired magazine as “moonbeam-addled Californian utopian internet bullshit” before. But that seems more fun than the magazine with the most successful iPad app. Let’s keep it.

Clay Shirky On The Internet as Methadone