30 June 2008

Cognitive Surplus

Wikipedia, it has been estimated, represents 100 million hours of human thought. Now, much of that thought is fairly senseless, as are a great many of the moves made in online blitz chess. But neither the nonsense posted as "knowledge" nor the gross errors played every minute at playchess.com or FICS are as mind numbing as watching Gilligan's Island reruns (and many of us have done that). Watching television is passive consumption, and these days folks are as apt to produce and share as much as they are to consume during their leisure time.

Such is the point Clay Shirky makes in "Gin, Television, and Social Surplus":

Media in the 20th century was run as a single race--consumption. How much can we produce? How much can you consume? Can we produce more and you'll consume more? And the answer to that question has generally been yes. But media is actually a triathlon, it 's three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share.

Thanks to Historiann for the link to Shirky's article. Now, when folks ask how I've been able to play many thousands of chess games online, I can point to scholarship that explains that I've found the time by not watching television.

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