Hic Sunt Dracones

the smylere with the knyf under the cloke

Stunting Social Surplus

Watch TV much?

And what did we do with that free time? Well, mostly we spent it watching TV.

We did that for decades. We watched I Love Lucy. We watched Gilligan’s Island. We watch Malcolm in the Middle. We watch Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives essentially functioned as a kind of cognitive heat sink, dissipating thinking that might otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat.

[Source: Here Comes Everybody: Gin, Television, and Social Surplus]

Social networking, social bookmarking and wikis. Where do people find the time?

So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project–every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in–that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, “Where do they find the time?” when they’re looking at things like Wikipedia don’t understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that’s finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

Now, the interesting thing about a surplus like that is that society doesn’t know what to do with it at first–hence the gin, hence the sitcoms. Because if people knew what to do with a surplus with reference to the existing social institutions, then it wouldn’t be a surplus, would it? It’s precisely when no one has any idea how to deploy something that people have to start experimenting with it, in order for the surplus to get integrated, and the course of that integration can transform society.

And it’s only now, as we’re waking up from that collective bender, that we’re starting to see the cognitive surplus as an asset rather than as a crisis. We’re seeing things being designed to take advantage of that surplus, to deploy it in ways more engaging than just having a TV in everybody’s basement.

[Source: Here Comes Everybody: Gin, Television, and Social Surplus]

Then again, when they do get into the internet, knowledge is not really one of their objective. Take my colleague(s) for instance. The arc of the internet pathway is more to the tangent of social networking of friendster, myspace and facebook; than social networking of photography and art like Flickr and deviantART.

Social bookmarking like Slashdot, Digg, del.icio.us and StumbleUpon is more likely to be a filler for surfing experience, rather than participating, and sharing.

Podcast is under utilized. Apple iTunes even got iTunes U for anyone on the road of lifelong learning. Apple iPod shouldn’t just be a music boom box through the ear canal. There’s one special section for podcast if you even care to look.

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a one stop centre for thinkers and doers to find inspiration. RSS feeds and downloadable video is at the ready, while transcripts of TEDTalks is on the way.

RSS Aggregator like Bloglines for example is the best way to minimize your reading time online and offline (or even maximize it, if you’re a RSS freaks like me).

YouTube. You know there’s a better channel to subscribe than a mere farce of internet toilet. There’s always 4chan by the /b/tards for the lulz.

So there. GTFO.

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