So it’s official. Clay Shirky is my new hero, right up there with Lessig in terms of spelling things out in ways that just make so much sense, and that actually cause butterflies in my stomach when my brain fully wraps around an idea and owns it. I loved his book, Here Comes Everybody, and I love the book blog almost as much, especially when he writes stuff like this.
Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan’s Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don’t? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn’t posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it’s not, and that’s the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it’s worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter.
It’s an amazing essay that positions this shift just right, that we’re waking up from a collective TV watching bender that has created a “cognitive surplus” that’s just waiting to activated, and that we’re seeing the beginnings of that right now in our ability to participate. And that changes everything.
This is something that people in the media world don’t understand. 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.
It made me think of George Siemens’ recent post where he writes about being unable to state clearly exactly what it is that’s happening right now.
While people have always been able to do this, the scope and ease of collaborating and (hopefully) creating a multi-perspective information source is now greater than before. It just feels different to me. Like we’re still going through many of the motions I recall going through in the past with regard to information creation/sharing…but something fundamental is different. Can’t quite put my finger on it…
Shirky might say we’re shaking off the hangover and discovering a larger purpose for what we are creating and sharing. It feels different because it’s starting to feel like an expectation, not simply an option. As Shirky says
Here’s something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here’s something four-year-olds know: Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because four year olds, the people who are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won’t have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching Gilligan’s Island, they just assume that media includes consuming, producing and sharing.
Great, great essay. And lots of butterflies.
UPDATE: Just saw a tweet from Arthus that led to the video of Shirky’s talk. Cool!