[Update: after thinking about it overnight, the main take away I got from Shirky’s talk was examining media in a different fashion. It is too easy to just look at Web 2.0 as just normal media taken online. But the Web is not TV and will have its own way of connecting people. In the end, it will be the people in a community that determine the network’s utility/importance, not the media and not corporations. So listen to what the community wants, not what the hype says.]
Just got back from Shirky’s talk. He is a very engaging speaker. No slides. Just very different points of view that require you to alter your perspective. There has been some discussion of Shirky’s new book ‘Here Comes Everybody’ at Bench Marks that invites some thought.
Interestingly, he directly answered the ‘people with too much time’ meme. His point was that one of the huge aspects of the last 50 years is that almost everyone has too much time. It has been spent watching TV and consuming.
He stated that 100 million hours of human thought produced Wikipedia. We spend 100 million hours every weekend just watching ads on TV. Which one wastes the most time?
According to Shirky, those who say Web 2.0 approaches as being used by people with too much time ignore the fact that virtually everyone has too much time today. That is, there is a culture-wide cognitive surplus that, until recently, was filled by TV and consumerism. What happens if some of this is harnessed?
Shirky mentioned the inability of modern media to accurately describe what is happening. It sees anyone who is not watching mass media or consuming as a waste. But TV is really the waste.
New technologies now allow people to also produce and to share. He stated that even if a very small fraction of the total amount of time spent watching TV, say 10%, was utilized, it could result in 10,000 wikipedia sized projects a year. His point here was that even if people are playing World of Warcraft that it is a better use of their time than watching TV.
Now, according to Sturgeon’s law, 90% of the stuff produced and shared will be crud, because 90% of everything is crud. But to throw out that 10% because the rest is hype or echo chamber is a mistake. That is still about 1,000 wikipedia-sized projects a year.
Just as we had to get through My Mother the Car to finally see Battlestar Galactica, we may have to deal with some online crud. But, a social network will not gain much unless it serves the needs of the community. So echo chamber blogs will not really have much impact as they seal themselves away from anything that breaks the echo. Blogs as cults will not be very sustainable nor have much impact.
On re-reading the article by Brabazon, I think she is concentrating on something that was not at all the focus of Shirky’s book. If so, that is somewhat unfair. Or perhaps she found a blind spot in his discussions. But that may not invalidate what he has to say. What her article and Shirky’s talk have accomplished is that I may have to read the book to figure it out for myself. Score another victory for consumerism.
Technorati Tags: Web 2.0