I'm heading off to LSE in a few minutes, where Clay Shirky is speaking tonight. Journalism.co.uk has an interesting interview with him today - the following passage jumped out, in relation to my recent posts:
Significant changes often come at times of crisis, like the current financial downturn, adds Shirky, who says we are entering a two-three year period which could shape society for decades.
"In a crisis people lay their hands on what works without regard to how they've done it the past," he says. Often seen as informal changes, significant technological shifts quickly become part of the established political landscape, he says.
Shirky hopes that specifically British issues will get raised at tonight's debate. "When this stuff charges in the US the questions are 'what are the kids doing?' and 'what is it going to do to companies?' In the UK it is 'what is it going to do for the government and social exclusion?'
Two ideas there that resonate with the conversations I've been involved in over the last couple of weeks. Firstly, that the UK already stands out for applying ideas from the social web to solving social problems. (That doesn't mean we've done it brilliantly, just that it seems to be more of a focus of people's thinking and activity in the British startup scene.)
The second one is the idea that a major crisis can generate a moment of pragmatism - a point at which new ideas and approaches may suddenly get taken seriously, with lasting consequences. I don't know about anyone else, but I've been aware of a pragmatic openness to radical ideas lately, from a surprising range of directions.