Clay Shirky is brilliant, and I have been reading his essays for a very long time1. Recently, he has been discussing his notion of a Cognitive Surplus . Good stuff; if you have not read it, go read it now.
The headline is that if we just switch 1% of yearly TV consumption hours to ‘participation’ we get the equivalent of 100 Wikipedia projects a year (that is development, comments, authors, editors, talk; the whole corpus as it stands today).
This the Cognitive Surplus; previously the surplus was masked by mind-numbing television until we switched from just being able to consume media to consuming, producing, and sharing media.
We are in a new media landscape, transformed irrevocably from mass consumption of media due to the communication advances of the last few decades.
Those advances enabled us to erase a participation deficit. The way the deficit manifested for me was an apparent inability to be alone (so says my wife) in spite of being a person who values solitude. Before the nascent intertubes, I had no way to participate. I could (and did) watch television. But I also did many other things, including hack on computers. Only there was no sharing, no participation. Once the nascent intertubes arrived, I2 and many others did participate. Our participation accelerated on the wave of Moore’s and Metcalfe’s laws to transform society in ways we could not anticipate, but that we were already exploring. We still cannot anticipate how we are changing society, and we are still exploring.
If you have read this, take a moment and write your own blog entry or tweet or upload a photo/video or post a message or whatever-social-sharing-thing-you-might-do and revel in your participation.
1 A decade?
2 My first email (lost forever) was in 1982.