Redbean - What do possums know about Television? Not much. But they know that every night when they are sneaking past to eat the papaya outside the kitchen that we are too busy to notice because we are watching TV. But Penelope Possum is a kind and thoughtful marsupial and recently she gave me back my cognitive surplus. And I am truly thankful to her.
Clay Shirky recently gave a speech where he showed how the sitcom has become the gin of the 20th century which leads us into a nightly stupor of time wasting decay. He has estimated that over 200 billion hours are spent watching television in the USA every year and around 100 million hours of surplus time is spent just watching advertisements every weekend.
In contrast around 100 million hours has also been put to use in another form - the design and development of Wikipedia. And unlike television it is a community project and useful.
User-generated content is the current and next big thing. Whether it is YouTube, Face Book or World of Warcraft, online usage of cognitive surplus has got to be better for the planet than the mind-numbing, passive consumption of television. Who knows what we might build after Wikipedia? I don’t know but it seems people interacting across the globe in various forms has to be a vast improvement on the current xenophobic broadcast news and media services that “keep the ignorant ignorant”.
Yet Shirky’s real point is that the world is heavily utilising online technology, not to passively consume, but to develop and participate - for both good and for ill. This he says in his new book “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations” means a new revolution in social organization has commenced.
So when Penelope recently returned from a hard night of making love, stealing fruit and thinking about the meaning of life she accidentally (or was it on purpose?) disconnected the aerial cable of our television. Bingo! I now have a cognitive surplus to utilise. Penelope still gets her papaya though. I am usually too busy watching YouTube to hear her sneak past.
Clay Shirky’s Speech: