Let me start with a quote from Hugh Hewitt’s Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World:
What made it all possible? What gave Luther the ability to succeed in his reform where others had failed? What allowed Calvin to shape the thought of every generation that followed him? Print. In 1449 Gutenberg amplified the human voice such that it could be heard around the world. He provided the means by which one person could communicate with the masses without the interference of the institutional structures of the day. At last individuals could speak, and none could silence them.
For the Mainstream Media, it is 1449 and 1517, at the same moment. (p.59)
Hewitt’s point is that we have embarked upon the next wave of transformation in the dissemination of information, and like the Reformations of the Sixteenth Century, this transformation provides a broader voice.
What, then, does this mean for libraries? If we are tasked with not only provision of access to information but also the preservation of that information, what are we to do with this new form? Clearly, anybody who can get online can read a blog. But if blogs are the new media, then what of their preservation? Whose, how often, and in what form should blogs be archived? And who should be tasked with it? In a hundred years will today’s blogs be accessible like the preserved media of a hundred years ago?
My second question concerns the cultural and societal change which is being sparked by this change in media. William Sonn in his Paradigms Lost: The Life and Deaths of the Printed Word argues that with each major historical shift in the manner and method of information dissemination there has been a consequent, and often quite significant, change in society. To quote him:
For every time the way media were produced changed in the past, politics shifted. So did economics. Migrations and emigrations followed; even mating habits changed sometimes. It is hard to trace how one particular tool–the telegraph, the radio, a device that made printing cheaper–directly led to one particular change; but all hell seemed to break loose when a new communications device superseded an old one, or even when the nitty-gritty manufacture and distribution of old media changed. (p. 7)
So where, then, are we going? And who will record the journey?