Death of the sitcom frees up 2,000 Wikipedias worth of cognitive capacity

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125 Responses to “Death of the sitcom frees up 2,000 Wikipedias worth of cognitive capacity”

  1. sproing3 says:

    Those figures seem awfully low. 3 gallons of ethanol is only about 5 40ounce bottles of rum, or 20 hip flasks. Maybe a months worth of fuel for a moderate alcoholic.

  2. Takuan says:

    screetch is something Newfies invented to kill mainlanders

  3. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    @92 that’s 8/10oz of pure ethanol/person/day, or equal to the 2 oz of Famous Grouse Scotch at my elbow. Remember, that includes everyone over 14.

  4. noen says:

    Jonesy needs another bottle of gin and a couple of bong hits ’till he can calm the fuck down, wow. Just hide the bottle in the toilet tank like everyone else and your mom will never find it. Plus you’ll save water, win!110101!!

  5. Jake0748 says:

    Rossindetroit – 8/10 oz. = 4/5 or 0.8. Geez, didn’t any of your elementary teachers tell you to reduce your fractions?

    Now I’m off to consume my daily 32/16th of an ounce.

    Cheers.

  6. sproing3 says:

    Ya, a hip flask is about 11 ounces. It takes at least a hip flask for regular drinker to get a drunk on. A hard core alkie might need two, but I doubt most people could sustain drinking two per day without serious health consequenses. You’d only need one in five people to be regular drinkers to allow the rest to be teetotalers.

  7. Takuan says:

    maybe next we should look up life expectancies

  8. UsernameIsNotValid says:

    First off… theres nothing wrong with enjoying watching the advertisements… I like seeing what the hell they manage to come up with next to try and persuade us to buy something that we don’t need.

    Secondly I don’t understand why it is so important what we do with our time.

    Also we can’t say that just because a person watches a very large amount of Tv that a person is less intelligent or less creative.

    At the end of the day most of us know the different between what is very good and what is extremely bad. On the internet or on the Tv, also the fact that they say people are watching less Tv is not necessarily true because most of what you can see on tv, you can see on the internet as well. It’s more convenient to watch your favourite sitcom or movie on your pc while checking your email…

    Of course there are far more choices on the internet and watching home videos is actually quite entertaining, after all reading blogs and watching vlogs can be comforting, knowing people have the same problems or agree with your point on a certain debate.

    Being a 16 year old girl, I watch a large amount of Tv, most of it being The Simpsons, futurama and programmes about extremely fat people. How ever I own 230 books and have read thousands thanks to the local library, I see it just like watching a TV inside my head.

    Its just harder to find a book that pleases me because most of the time these days books are concentrated either about young women addicted to buying shoes, clever criminals and family scandals, All of which I am not interested in. I also love playing computer games and giving my obviously ‘much needed’ opinion to blogs like this.

    Would you say that I am a victim to this media? That I should be painting or doing sudokus?
    All I know is, I am a proud consumer and over all I love watching the inside of my eyelids better.

    Feel free to tell me how much you dont care about what I just said. :D

  9. Stefan Jones says:

    Imperial hip flasks held 13.2 Oz.

  10. ZippySpincycle says:

    Best ironically-appropriate misspelling I can recall: a student a few years back wrote something about all the “sit-calms on TV.”

  11. Marilyn Terrell says:

    This is so true! Why has nobody said this before? It makes sense.

  12. Sudasana says:

    Yes, but how many of those hours are now used for reading blogs aimlessly or looking at captioned pictures of cats?

  13. Takuan says:

    lessee… drunk all the time, watching TV all the time, on the web all the time…. any others?

  14. Jack Fear says:

    Mm. Considering the percentage of the project’s total pages that are devoted to cartoons and Star Trek, I think Shirky might in fact have it backwards: if people didn’t watch so much television, there might not be any wWkipedia at all.

  15. rushkoff says:

    People have definitely said it before, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense! Back in 94, a mainstream media group study showed that the average internet-connected home was watching 9 hours less TV per week. That’s when the war against participatory media began.

    But the war against cognitive surplus in America began, quite consciously, during the FDR administration. Cognitive surplus was seen as the first step towards worker unrest.

    The idea for three fruit trees in every Levittown garden (supplied free) was specifically designed to use up men’s time so that they wouldn’t stray from home and organize.

  16. David Bendit says:

    “The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That’s about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 10,000 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.”

    Of the Internet-connected population, how many have heard of Wikipedia? Of that number, how many edit it? Of those, how many actually add new information, rather than fixing grammar mistakes?

    The vast majority of people on the Internet are consumers, not producers. Even in terms of comments, I’d wager that the comment-to-pageview ratio, even excluding rss, is far below 1%. Saying that all this cognitive surplus is going to the advancement of the Internet is nonsense. People are just finding new diversions. Instead of watching Seinfeld, they watch YouTube.

    Also, as far as the principle of “It’s better to do something than to do nothing,” that’s rarely the case. Is it truly better for people to play WoW than to watch television? How so? Within the sphere of WoW, maybe, but from an outside perspective, it’s very common for people to think, “Losers. Grown men sitting in their basement pretending to be elves.” For people outside of that sphere, they are essentially doing nothing. It doesn’t impact them, they can’t associate; the people playing WoW are the only ones who see it as doing something. Finally got your epic mount? People who don’t play WoW don’t care. And this can be extended to many other areas that Shirky places high interest in: blogging, captioning cats, etc.

    In fact, the reason that this use of cognitive surplus is on the rise isn’t some grand awakening: the cognitive requirements for use have just been lowered to the point where “mere mortals” can gain entry. Blogging is just an extension of the personal homepage that’s been around for over a decade. Now, though, you don’t need to know HTML. You go to blogger.com, fill in some details, click some buttons, and you’ve got a homepage. Type your thoughts in a box, hit another button, and you’re suddenly a blogger. Because of this lowered entry requirement, anyone can put anything online without regard for its quality or usefulness, and I fail to see how this is cognitive surplus being put to good use.

    Oh, and the sitcom is dead because of reality TV. Just as many viewers, a fraction of the cost. Absolutely genius.

  17. davejenk1ns says:

    Some friends and I put together an index of wiki sites out there, and I hate to say it, but the congnitive surplus is being vacuumed up by people writing aimlessly on wikis about their TV shows. The English wikipedia comes out on top, obviously, but wikis about World of Warcraft, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Yu-Gi-Oh, and other time-sinks easily make the top 40 biggest and most active wikis out there:

    wikindex.com

  18. amuderick says:

    Most people are consumers. They watch TV and vegetate. Their participation is limited to online discussion forums of their favorite TV shows. Honestly, it creates work for the producers of art, content, invention, etc. I think the desire to produce vs. consume is in the fiber of each person and cannot be changed.

    It is true that the internet has allowed the amateur producers to organize and create works that are much larger and significant than those which could have been made before the internet.

  19. thekevinmonster says:

    For those who are saying that the internet still lets us ‘consume’ to fill the cognitive surplus, perhaps it would be the difference between ‘consuming’ The Bernie Mac Show (the only sitcom I’ve seen in a few years, and which horrified me with its skewed outlook on family life) and consuming the Discovery channel.

    However, there’s another interesting force at work in TV, an even further dumbing down. Look at A&E, Bravo, The Learning Channel, The Discovery Channel, the Food Network. Look at what profiteering and reality television have done to all of these outposts of thoughtful and useful information. Look at what Bravo is now; it’s the ‘oh snap!’ reality channel. Look at TLC and its macho “super big stuff and awesome motorcycles!” contingent.

  20. yohthere says:

    The deeper issue Clay might be addressing is not so much the self-expression (wiki’s) or even the need to interactivity (“where’s the mouse”). The issue seems to be the slow awakening from mind-numbing brain-slushing. Been there, done that. Personally, I can’t wait to see that happen more and more. Yes, it is a personal choice, but social interactions, at least for some, and especially teenagers, make them almost HAVE to watch the crap that is poored over all our heads. Thumbs up.

  21. Angstrom says:

    My favourite quote:

    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.

  22. Carlos Leyva says:

    I have followed Clay for a long time and he is definitely onto something here. Sitcoms are a kind of mindless activity, the Internet will surely continue to suck cycles from this space. Sure blog surfing is at times mindless as well, but some percentage of surfers are commenting, writing their own blogs, creating videos, etc. Here comes everybody indeed.

    The economics behind the “participation economy” was laid out by Benkler in “Wealth of Networks.” His take on the “invisible hand.” This invisible hand is fueled by “excess cycles” and that is the primary economic force that underpins open source software. Yochai uses several cases studies that are quite informative on this topic. The PDF is available here: http://www.benkler.org/Benkler_Wealth_of_Networks.pdf

  23. Marilyn Terrell says:

    This is interesting: in China, their 5th Annual Readership Survey shows newspapers and magazines still on top, but the Internet has replaced books as #3:
    http://www.techblog86.com/?p=104

  24. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    I quit watching television in 1975 and since then have consumed less than 1% as much as the typical American. Probably much less. I think this has made my life different. I’ve read much more. I’ve watched a ton of movies. I have hobbies that I’m deeply into. Solitary ones and ones in which I participate live and online with other people.
    One big difference is a sort of social disconnection due to lack of common cultural references. You would interact differently with someone who had seen no more than a handful of hours of The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Happy Days, Star Trek (other than the original series) and other widely known shows. The common experiences of television provides a framework of references for people to understand strangers of the same culture in some ways.
    I think that started to erode somewhat as cable became widely available and there were more than 3 channels for everyone to watch. But the most popular shows are still widely influential upon the population.

  25. jonesy says:

    Victory gin, for sure!! Now, for a victory cigarette!!

  26. Tim Mannveille says:

    Wow, what a bunch of cynical comments.

    Technology has removed three critical barriers to participation: entry cost (cost to make and host video, for example), ease of learning (access to helpful communities or just the internet in general), and distribution. Participation goes up, but then everyone complains we’ll drown in crummy content.

    Not really, because the next problem that arises as a direct result of the first three being solved – navigating content to find stuff you want to see – is already getting very easy. 90% of art on DeviantArt is poor, but I spend 90% of my time browsing it looking at great stuff, thanks to the smart way they put it together, which incidentally (along with all the others doing this stuff – YouTube, Amazon, etc etc) leverages these ‘lesser’ forms of participation such as rating something or even just *looking at it* to make it easier to find good content.

    It’s like a great big participation pyramid, and so far we’re only one floor up from the ground. To begin with we just build on top of what we already have (i.e. wiki about TV shows), but as barriers to climbing are reduced and as the next generation starts to take all this for granted, we can get a feel for the incredible scale of this thing we’re constructing.

  27. Krisjohn says:

    Uh, does that gin bit at the beginning look odd to anyone else? Surely “the critical technology, for the early phase of the industrial revolution” was the *cotton gin*, not booze.

  28. Spoon says:

    “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.”

    Apples to oranges, there where ways to sink your time before the internet other then TV, sure the internet is good, diversity is good, having choices is good, but the tone of the article rubs me as saying “now that we have Oranges no sane person is going to eat Apples, and anyone who grows apples doesn’t understand how f’n juicy and delicious Oranges are… what a bunch of twits! amiright?”

    But we all know that Cory writes books, which where long ago replaced by radio, which was replaced by TV, which we are now being told is being replaced by the interbutt… to be fair he does say “It doesn’t mean that we’ll never sit around mindlessly watching Scrubs on the couch. It just means we’ll do it less.”, and that’s the real rub of it. People who aren’t going to join the internet culture anytime soon don’t appreciate being told how amazing the mouse is, but almost no one frowns on more choices, I see it everywhere, and I’m pretty sure nearly everyone understands it.

    Hell the question of who you would want to be stranded on an island with, Ginger vs Mary Ann, is just that, an eternal question of choice (http://youtube.com/watch?v=8wrEqsTJCmg). Mix and match other options, Xeni Jardin vs Starley Kine, as desired.

  29. teapot7 says:

    wrybread at #43 writes:

    > I’m surprised anyone who reads boingboing would actually use the term “elitism” as spoonie did in the first sentence of his post.

    As a regular BoingBoing reader, let me add a shout of “elitism!”, in support of Spoonie.

    I love the net, I’ve been using it since long before the web, and it’s changed a lot about my world, mostly for the better – but I think Shirky, and quite a few other people tend to overstate the benefits and wonders of the net.

    There is plenty of rubbish on the net, as well as a smattering of excellent stuff. There is excellent television produced, as well as heaps of drivel. For my part, I hardly watch any TV, spending most of my time on the net – and often enough I realise I’ve missed something pretty interesting on TV because I was idly flipping through blogs and cruising comment threads.

    > Aren’t we beyond that Newt Gingrich-era method of dismissing all critical thought? Who am I kidding, of course we’re not.

    Sure we are – we’re all wonderful now. BUT I wouldn’t automatically associate being on the net with critical thought, nor watching TV with being a sessile couch potato.

  30. HPHovercraft says:

    #5 David Bendit:

    “The vast majority of people on the Internet are consumers, not producers. Even in terms of comments, I’d wager that the comment-to-pageview ratio, even excluding rss, is far below 1%. Saying that all this cognitive surplus is going to the advancement of the Internet is nonsense. People are just finding new diversions. Instead of watching Seinfeld, they watch YouTube.”

    This may be broadly true, but all it takes is a comparison of the ratio of producers to consumers between television and the Internet to show that one medium invites more participation than the other.

    Television is completely passive – you sit, you watch, you are given what the producer wants to give you and nothing more. There is no interaction between producer and consumer, unless you feel like writing a letter that no one will read.

    The Internet provides an opportunity to interact with the producer, even if it’s just posting a comment to tell him that his latest observation is ‘teh suxx0rz’. By posting that comment, the consumer becomes a producer. Watching people get Rickrolled on YouTube may be no different from watching Seinfeld, but over time the YT consumer will create an account, leave a bunch of comments, and eventually produce their own videos.

    In classic terms, a lot of Internet content seems scattered and chaotic. This, I’d argue, is because our classic media have been rigidly controlled and formatted in order to present a highly filtered view of reality. Real reality is a chaotic mess – that the Internet reflects this is a sure sign that something very organic and natural is taking place therein.

  31. fsm says:

    It’s built on the premise that we could do “thinking” and “being creative” all the time. IMO, this is impossible – one needs downtime to be able to think again. Whether you watch TV or not.

  32. Tenn says:

    @ DavidBendit5,
    Now, though, you don’t need to know HTML. You go to blogger.com, fill in some details, click some buttons, and you’ve got a homepage. Type your thoughts in a box, hit another button, and you’re suddenly a blogger. Because of this lowered entry requirement, anyone can put anything online without regard for its quality or usefulness, and I fail to see how this is cognitive surplus being put to good use.

    How is this bad use? How many clever writers should be expected to know HTML? Does the lack of knowledge of how to create their own portfolio site make the brilliant producers on DeviantArt any less skilled at art?

    I’d argue that this is a leveling ground. The more websites and applications made to simplify interaction, the more the average Joe can do something with his talents. Sure, he may be not so talented, but if anything, the Internet is a democratic society in action. Yes, you have web providers being jerks, and site providers ruling with a heavy hand, but if that bothers the consumer they can go elsewhere and use other products. Then, as webmasters realize their sites are dying, they have to change if they want to fit the will of the people.

    I know enough HTML to have coded my own webpage back in the day, etc. But just because I had some skills didn’t mean the ramblings of a ten year old girl were any value. Webpages back in the nineties were no more clever than they are now. Maybe back in the eighties, but come on, you remember the flashing backgrounds and blaring .midis that characterize nineties websites (for me, anyway.)

    It’s all the vomit of society, and as vomit goes, it’s pretty okay.

  33. Scott Wetterschneider says:

    Once, as a lad, I realized that time spent watching television could be measured in hours per viewer per day, and with a little more math, that amount could be translated to human lifetimes in wasted hours.

    That 200 billion hours per year computes to 526,315 lifetimes worth of waking time, unless there was some error in my math.

  34. jccalhoun says:

    This is kind of like the RIAAs logic of aguing that X number of downloaded songs is the same as x dollars in lost revenue.

    Just because people aren’t watching tv doesn’t mean they will do something creative with that time.

  35. ScienceDeckard says:

    That’s pretty much the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. Who the HELL has “an enormous amount of free time”? Automation has done nothing but cause the world to expect more and more in less and less time! It’s 3:56am and I just found the time to read this stupid blog and comment.

    Maybe Clay Shirky has loads of time to shirk around, but as for myself and my friends, we barely find time to mow our f**king lawns, with those wonderful automated lawn mowers.

    It is complete and utter sophistry that people have more time now than they used to. People in times of antiquity worked from dawn to dusk, and no more. For crying out loud, the 40-hour-work-week was created by the Puritans that emigrated to the U.S.

    People are more busy, with less time for friends and family than ever before, and television is simply a way to wind down from that chaos. Blowhard famous professors who have personal assistants and teaching assistants might have “an enormous amount of free time”, but for the rest of us living in the real world, we’re up to our ass in alligators.

  36. elevenwatt says:

    This is all nonsense. From the actual article, the citation he makes is to some paper that says gin was the sedative that allowed everyone from the preindustrial era to adjust to the industrial one. Which is something I could buy if there was some actual thought put into it, and it was not simply used as some kind of vehicles to promote our pop culture consumptive self-loathing.
    Also, I looked, and the definition of cognitive surplus (a phrase that is wonderfully loaded) varies quite a bit from source to source. So, I am not sure if “free time” is accurate, but that appears to be the working definition here.
    Working from TV= modern sedative for the masses , and cognitive surplus = wasted time, I find all of this a an incredibly pedantic way of saying “TV BAD.” Elitist, and intellectually masturbatory works for me too.

  37. Takuan says:

    wheres my wearable?

  38. VagabondAstronomer says:

    Growing up in the 1970′s, I had a fairly healthy appetite for science fiction television and to be honest it was all I’d watch. Then my stepfather introduced me to the joys of PBS, the evening news and “60 Minutes”. By the time we got cable, I’d spend dozens of hours vegetating in front of the tube.
    Since the 1990′s, though, I started throttling back to the point where I barely watch television at all. I have absolutely no cultural reference points in day to day conversation at work, but my god how I write! I also paint, have my tech hobbies and most importantly I have my astronomy (yes, yes, my dear, sacred visual astronomy, how I love thee…). Yes, I think Clay is onto something there…

  39. sproing3 says:

    Some TV is thought provoking. I’m informed by the social dynamics of House. The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy is a fun-house of social commentary.

  40. Andy Nonymous says:

    MEH. this is a “just so” story. now, “cognitive capacity” is being taken up by unsubstantiated claims by prominent bloggers.

  41. ZippySpincycle says:

    I wonder if maybe what we’re seeing is something of a return to honorable amateurism, even if the overall quality of amateur production isn’t all that high. I’m thinking of Twain’s skewering of Emmeline Grangerford’s artistic pretensions in Huckleberry Finn. Here’s a 19th-century adolescent lowbrow who wrote absurdly sentimental poetry and drew inept, bathetic sketches (“Art thou gone yes thou art gone Alas!”) On the other hand, Emmeline was at least taking part in some kind of art, like any number of hobbyist musicians and artists before the rise of Big Media.

    For my money, middling creativity is still a notch above utter passivity (as long as I don’t have to pretend to like your poetry).

  42. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Better to make something mediocre than to consume a superior product? I agree. Production pays benefits for the producer. Consumption merely fills a single need.

  43. Beanolini says:

    Quoting Sturgeon’s law/ revelation in isolation makes it sound terribly elitist.

    In context, it is a reply to an assertion that 90% of science fiction was crud/ crap/ shit/ trash.

    The point is that it’s unfair to judge a medium or genre by its worst examples.

    On the main point, I watch a minuscule fraction of the amount of TV I used to, but I haven’t experienced any ‘cognitive surplus’- I just wonder how I found time to watch so much TV in the past.

  44. POLOMOCHE says:

    What’s wrong with gin?

  45. Stu Mark says:

    Thank you so much for the pointer to Shirky’s transcript. It was incredibly encouraging.

  46. knifie_sp00nie says:

    Let’s all remember to read the Onion article titled, “Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn’t Own A Television and cut down on the elitism.

    Some people mention trading movies for TV, but what’s the difference? There’s plenty of crap movies and 2 hours of watching is still 2 hours watching something. Same can be said of the theatre, live music, etc.

    We can even say the same thing about books. You’re either reading just the classics (the merit of what makes them classic can be debated), or you’re reading stuff that may or may not be crap. Is Mercedes Lackey or the latest Star Trek novel really better than TV? At least you only spend an hour on a bad TV show. Books take longer to read.

    And then there’s the internet. For every worthwhile blog post or discussion thread there’s probably 50-100 inane posts about cat barf or flame wars. We can celebrate the creator, but these elitists who want us to kill our TVs will still look down their noses at the likes of pregnant Snape erotica or those LOLcat things the unenlightened masses drool over.

    The fate of the internet is likely no different than any other medium. It’ll be commercialized to a variable extent. It will expand and more of the average people will be drawn in as the barrier to entry is lowered. With all that audience more, and more varied content will be produced.

    And now you have this great sea of content and we have the same problem as TV- One thousand channels, maybe a dozen really good shows, and a whole lot of leftovers of varying quality. Then you add all the filtering mechanisms to only get the “good” content. You might as well be reading TV Guide.

    Those unwashed masses watching TV after a day at the office are the same masses that sat around the hearth telling re-runs about Zeus after a hard day building an aqueduct. The revered Shakespeare wrote for the TV of his time and wasn’t critically acclaimed early on. I bet he even took a day off occasionally, especially once writing became his day-job.

    So here I am. I’ve spent a bunch of time writing a reply in a discussion about a talk. Have I wasted this time? Was this expenditure any more noble than if I were contemplating the theme of a TV show? Is this just digital graffiti that may one day be praised because it managed to survive the passage of time where other hard drive sectors failed? Maybe I’m a dullard that spends his time behind a screen sharing his opinion when all the enlightened people know that the only true way is to shout it from the center of ye olde town square. It’ll never end.

    Maybe we should spend some of that cognitive surplus trying to get over ourselves.

  47. sproing3 says:

    “On the main point, I watch a minuscule fraction of the amount of TV I used to, but I haven’t experienced any ‘cognitive surplus’- I just wonder how I found time to watch so much TV in the past.”

    I have periods of creative urge. Hours, days, years. I don’t understand the tides of creativity. It’s like being horny; when you are not, you don’t miss it and feel no shame.

  48. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    @27 I don’t think that all TV is crap or that reading is always an enlightened endeavor. I’m the non TV watcher and I can name a half dozen brilliant shows that were really meaningful to me. And a lot of literature is shallow and disposable.
    However I do think that there are differences between the experiences. Reading is more involving to me. Many people also experience more involvement with the written word than with a sitcom. Ten people reading the same Time magazine article are probably having ten experiences that are more diverse than the same ten people watching The Simpsons*. Reading just uses the brain in a different way.

    * brilliant.

  49. Argon says:

    #19 posted by Scott Wetterschneider:

    That 200 billion hours per year computes to 526,315 lifetimes worth of waking time, unless there was some error in my math.

    Though it’s kinda put into perspective by the fact that mankind is currently churning out 211,090 additional lifetimes (population increase) per day.

    Doing some quick calculations myself, the work capacity of all ants on earth amounts to 80,000,000,000,000,000,000 ant-hours per year. Humans are truly slackers, aren’t we?

  50. srgtick says:

    #5 David Benton

    “In fact, the reason that this use of cognitive surplus is on the rise isn’t some grand awakening: the cognitive requirements for use have just been lowered to the point where “mere mortals” can gain entry.”

    A grand awakening was never mentioned in the talk. I’m not sure if you’re just trying to be contrary with your response but you seem to ignore and misinterpret quite a bit of the talk.

    “Saying that all this cognitive surplus is going to the advancement of the Internet is nonsense.”

    He said some.

    What was mentioned in the talk was channels being opened for sharing and participation.

    Not having to know html, actionscript, .net etc. to share ideas opens up channels.

    Also, options are killing the sitcom. Not just reality tv.

    I’m glad your not a designer.

  51. sometimes says:

    I would be really interested in finding out how many people have quit watching TV in the last five years.

    After the “reality TV” boom, which coincided with my jumping ship from the family unit and moving on to my own life and academic pursuits I dropped TV completely.

    I watch about 2-4 hours a month now when I am at other peoples houses, and the whole experience has become really foreign, flipping channels gets really tedious and it feels like there is an information overload… but all the information is along the same tract and very little of it actually provides any gratification.

  52. Antinous says:

    looking at captioned pictures of cats

    My horrified reakshun. Let me sho u it.

  53. Talia says:

    I don’t know, this smacks of intellectual snobbery to me. I feel like I’m being told I’m a mindless brainless zombieoid because I have a few non-educational shows I like to watch, or because I’m a fan of the assorted entertainments the internet has to offer me. I’m not some mega-intellectual, and thats OK by me. I read plenty, I have friends and find some measure of enjoyment in life. If someone’s going to judge me because I don’t read ‘The Smithsonian’ excusively and turn up my nose at “that evil television,” to heck with them. :D

  54. yish says:

    Hey, Antinous – don’t knock the cats:
    http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/03/08/the-cute-cat-theory-talk-at-etech/

    Apropos Clay’s title, couldn’t help thinking of Hogarth:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gin_Lane

    Beer Street and Gin Lane are two prints issued in 1751 by English artist William Hogarth in support of what would become the Gin Act. Designed to be viewed alongside each other, they depict the evils of the consumption of gin as a contrast to the merits of drinking beer.

    Gives a whole new dimension to “free as in beer”

    (full text: http://yishaym.wordpress.com/2008/04/26/blog-street-and-tv-lane/)

    and MP3 of Clay’s talk @ the RSA (London)
    http://www.rsa.org.uk/audio/lecture180308a.mp3

  55. jphilby says:

    Watch out once Wikipedia is done (except for the talk pages). I’ve had a close eye on the music scene for the past ten years, and it’s my firm conviction that there are now more bands than there are cars. Here comes the 10,000 Salieris!

  56. noen says:

    #27 knifie_sp00nie

    “Maybe we should spend some of that cognitive surplus trying to get over ourselves.”

    Indeed, you should take your own advice. I know that replying to something on BoingBoing by dripping it with cynicism is very tempting but it’s no substitute for critical thought. I see this a lot here, BB posts something positive and then all the naysayers come out and piss all over it. It’s tiresome.

    “For every worthwhile blog post or discussion thread there’s probably 50-100 inane posts about cat barf or flame wars.”

    You don’t know that. (This is going to be a constant refrain of mine.) This is just your cynicism talking, it’s your personal bias stepping in and inserting itself between you and your perceptions. True objectivity is very hard work because we all have our own personal agendas and biases. It is very easy for them to creep in and color our perceptions.

    “And now you have this great sea of content and we have the same problem as TV- One thousand channels, maybe a dozen really good shows, and a whole lot of leftovers of varying quality. Then you add all the filtering mechanisms to only get the “good” content. You might as well be reading TV Guide.”

    This is just more of your pessimism creeping in. Have you seen the Battlestar Galactica wiki? Do you really think TV Guide even comes close? That’s all fan content to BTW. In addition the internet is very unlike traditional media. It’s searchable, it’s customizable. It enables collaboration on a global scale. Even more, you can build intelligence into it.

    I’m not saying, and I don’t believe that Clay is saying that everyone will become content creators, but that many more will than would through traditional media. I don’t know how old you are but I do remember when the only opinion or commentary available to me was through the local papers editorial pages or maybe the New Yorker. If I wanted to participate my only option was to write a letter to the editor.

    There is no way I or most other people would want to return to that. I can barely listen to my local MPR station because… well, partly because they’ve been taken over by GOP filth but also because they don’t really let me participate. All traditional media has this attitude where they are the holy priests who serve us unworthy masses our daily packet of official truth. That business model is dead and they know it.

  57. Antinous says:

    I was defending the kittehs!

  58. Woeful says:

    Wasted “cognitive capacity” can be easily twisted into just another excuse for the Man to squeeze every last ounce of work… I mean life, out of a Human Being in the name of enhancing shareholder value.

    Of course, too much of anything isn’t a good idea whether it’s TV, reading, gaming, or sex… Maybe not sex. Anyway, what I’m getting at is playtime should be whatever you want it to be from knitting, to sitcom viewing so that you can rest and cognate better later. I think that a truly important catalyst for innovation is actually variety, and not what is subjectively being “wasted” while we rest.

  59. yish says:

    knifie_sp00nie et al, the universal law of everything hasn’t changed:


    95% of everything is crap.

    The difference is that we’ve changed, from passive consumers of 95% crap and 5% quality, to producers of the same. Which has several effects:
    a) there’s much more of everything, crap as well as quality.
    b) both crap and quality are more diverse
    c) ownership is distributed.

    consequently, the half-life of crap is rapidly converging to 0, and the access we all have to quality is constantly growing.

  60. airship says:

    I just picked up a wonderful, nearly untouched set of the 1963 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s ‘Gateway to the Great Books’ series. This is a ten-volume set of short works – short stories, essays, excerpts from books – that is intended to be an introduction to EB’s Great Books series.

    Each of the volumes covers one area of expertise: literature, mathematics, natural sciences, etc. The idea is that ‘younger readers’ or ‘those of lesser ability’ can use these books as a gateway to ramp up to speed for reading the Great Books series. All 60 volumes of it.

    The Great Books include works by everyone from Aristotle to Shakespeare to Voltaire to Twain to Wolff. They are considered by the editors to be those core books which every civilized person in the Western world should read, re-read, and re-re-read until they are intimately familiar with them.

    Did I mention that there’s a suggested reading schedule? In their opinion, you should begin in seventh grade and have all of the Great Books read and understood by the time you’re a sophomore in college. That’s between the ages of 12 and 20.

    Of course, in the introduction they apologize for the fact that all of the works are in English, and that they aren’t insisting that many be read in the Greek or Latin originals as they would have been in your standard English boarding school of the 19th or early 20th century. After all, they are realists enough to know that by 1963 no one can be expected to live up to the scholastic standards of their more disciplined forebears.

    I’m 56, I went to college, and I’ve read maybe a dozen of the Great Books and a handful of the essays and stories in the Gateway volumes. Yet I have the audacity to consider myself smart and knowledgeable. I guess it really is all relative.

    But I kill at TV and movie trivia. That counts for something, right?

  61. wrybread says:

    Rushkoff – very interesting points. Any suggestions for further reading?

  62. Takuan says:

    cognitive surplus? Who has time to think when there are TERRORISTS UNDER EVERY BED!!??

  63. joeposts says:

    neat speech. Ignoring the ‘science’ parts, which might as well be completely made up, the web has completely changed the way I enjoy any type of media, and this change kind of explains them durn kids these days. Not that they’re terrible, they just don’t enjoy boredom as much as we did. Weird.

    I really like that he puts a positive spin on it all – usually I read that the Internet is going to drown us all in extreme pornography or copyright infringement or some combination of the two.

    Yes, I am a better person because of Internet. Thank you, Internet.

  64. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Takuan, you’re a genius. What we need to keep America safe is a bunch of sitcoms that terrorists will watch. Once they’re as sedated and occupied as we are, they’ll have no time or energy for attacking us.

  65. RMS says:

    What is really happening, to a large fraction of the US population, is
    that they have to work such long hours that they have little free time
    – and in the little they have, want to zone out, or else, pay someone
    to manage it for them. See the book, The Overworked American, by
    Judith Shor.

    Despite that, the article’s overall point may be valid.

    I hope that people starting new collaborative new projects avoid
    making them add-ons to databases that we can access only under private
    control. For instance Furtado’s crime data base should be based on
    OpenStreetMap. Can people transplant it there, without losing what
    has already been entered?

    Perhaps for this particular project starting over would only mean
    waiting a little while for it to build up to enough data. In fact, it
    might be good to start afresh each year just so that past patterns
    don’t exert a continuing influence even if the situation has changed.

  66. eustace says:

    defendin ur kittehs 24 7

    (but we must imagine the cat)

  67. Another Aaron says:

    [whispers quietly] Hey, if you read the article, you’ll realize his point doesn’t really have that much to do with tv. His point is the Brazilian crime map, or Wikipedia, or Outside.in, or open source software, or Congressional voting records, or the Consumerist, or…….

    Everyone can keep watching their tv, or doing whatever it is they do with their free time….but that new 1% or whatever that each of us now puts into one new idea or another on the internet is about to cause something amazing to happen.

    Where’s the mouse indeed.

    All those negative ninnies who keep screaming, “But, but, 90% of the population are morons!” can keep screaming that. Even if that *IS* true (and it isn’t), what he’s saying has nothing to do with that.

  68. wrybread says:

    #34 Noen – Immensely well put. I was recoiling in my seat thinking about how to counter knife_spoonie’s sour points but in a hundred tries I couldn’t have said it better than the way you just did.

    I’m surprised anyone who reads boingboing would actually use the term “elitism” as spoonie did in the first sentence of his post. Aren’t we beyond that Newt Gingrich-era method of dismissing all critical thought? Who am I kidding, of course we’re not.

  69. Shane says:

    At first I thought this was an amazing insight, but upon reflection and reading some of the comments, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s providing a new unit of measure with some useful observations.

    Why I backed off my initial “amazing insight” take was that this idea is not new. Its just the 21st Century version of bread and circuses. Only that we have a lot more influence in terms of what kind of bread we’re fed and what animals are in the circus.

    At the time of the Renaissance it seems there was a lot of promise about man ultimately elevating himself on a personal level and, come to find out, give the average guy some free time and he won’t elevate his mind, he’ll just fine another way to stupify it.

    That said, I’m all for it. I’m with Yish. Its still crap, but so what. Its better crap and for those who care, you can find more that is useful and valuable in it.

  70. Antinous says:

    a bunch of sitcoms that terrorists will watch

    They love Dallas. It’s a fact.

  71. Shane says:

    @ Wrybread… so you dismiss spoonies dismissiveness by in turn using your own dismissiveness based on stereotype?

    Sorry, but the irony kinda yelled out at me. Since these kind of discussions can turn into the an infinite looop, and you, in turn my complain about me dismissing your dismissing of someone elses dismissiveness, I’ll just cut to the chase. YOUR BAND SUCKS. ;)

  72. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Regarding the Where’s the Mouse Phenomenon:
    My online reading habits are starting to spill over into my print reading. Frequently now when I’m reading something in the newspaper or a magazine I get the reflexive urge to highlight/Google something that I want more detail on. I get frustrated with the linear and non-hyperlinked nature of the print format. Anybody else experience that?

  73. wrybread says:

    #46 Shane – Good point, but can you really blame me for cringing when someone calls reasoned discussion about the creative process “elitism”? Stereotype or not, that’s a *very* common tactic by the Fox Newses of the world. In my opinion its a tactic to devalue critical thinking so we won’t even bother trying. In other words its really dangerous and, in my opinion, evil, especially since it seems to work so well so often.

    I’m not saying Spoonie sat back in his chair and said “hey look, there’s some critical thinking going on.. That might result in increased creativity, I’d better bust out some accusations of elitism before this goes too far.” But (again, according to my theory) what I am saying is that the Fox Newses have used this word to shoot down any opposition so often and so effectively that the Spoonie’s of the world now do their work for them completely naturally.

    They do this so often that its even become a stereotype…

    And by the way you’re also completely correct in saying that my band sucks…

  74. Kennric says:

    Why do I get the feeling only about 4 people actually followed the link, read the speech, and processed its contents?

    (As opposed, that is, to reading the summary, jumping o a conclusion about what Clay was saying based on the summary here, a few key words, and their own opinions about the issues they imagine him to be addressing – then filling in the popular pat answers to those assumptions, and posting this lack of analysis as a response.)

  75. Pipenta says:

    I’m hopping into this thread rather late. I read it, at least as far as it had gotten by about 9:30 EST, before I followed the link and read Shirky’s piece.

    The spark that sets Shirky on fire is the TV producer’s comment “Where do people find the time”. From the way he describes it, what she’s doing isn’t asking a question, she’s simply implying that it is time wasted. And from here he defends internet culture and it participatory nature.

    And here on Boing Boing, the readership responds with a very lively discussion about television versus internet, passive versus active, the thoughtful/elite versus the-salt-of-the-Earth/great-unwashed.

    You’ve got those who say online participation isn’t any better than watching television because 90% of the activity surrounds crap like lolcats, Myspace and American Idol fan sites as opposed to the loftier pursuits like editing Wikipedia, contributing to the Tree of Life project, watching TED lectures and, of course, reading Boing Boing.

    I’m with the camp that says pretty much any participatory activity is better than passively watching television. (And yes, there IS a difference between watching television and watching movies.) If Bob is using the internet to learn how to anodize the tailpipe of his motorcycle or searching images of stoneflies to help him work out what feathers to use on a trout fly he is designing or planning a meet-up with his raiding party buddies on WoW, that’s better than his cousin Tom who is just sitting on that couch. Even if Tom is watching Masterpiece Theater, Tom hasn’t figured out how one way his relationship with the television is. Bob, methinks, gets out more. Bob, in a pinch, is better equipped to mobilize, to adapt to changing situations, to problem solve.

    I don’t hate all TV. But I’ve never bought a television. Though there has usually been a television kicking around, it is often a dusty unused thing. Since the advent of cable, I’ve not bothered to have it connected as often as I have had it connected. And the times I’ve had it, it has usually been because someone else wanted it. At any given point in time, there’s one or two programs I have liked, though not always enough to bother to watch on a regular basis. But sometimes the television has sat cold and dark for a year or more. I do like films. I prefer to see them as FILM and projected. Am I an elistist in this area? You betcha. But I can live without the films.

    When I can’t access the internet, I twitch. Disconnected, I continue to twitch everytime I need to learn something. But I get over the general twitching after a week or so. Because the general surfing, gaming, and social interacting I do online fills that need that some fill with sitcoms or beer.

    It isn’t so much a refusal to think, as it is an uneasiness with allowing my thoughts to run loose because I’m not comfortable with where they go. This is not to say that I’m always looking for escapist activities online, often it is quite the contrary. But I certainly use to soothe myself.

    I don’t believe I am unique in my uneasiness. I often look for a certain amount of emotional background noise. This is what broadcast television and sitcoms offer many, maybe most, viewers – a chance to shut off not necessarily their intellectual minds, but their emotional minds.

    Part of this is just part of the package of being a living being with a big brain. We’ve got all those instincts that make us prone to anxiety, things that can help us survive. And we’ve got all those other emotional needs, to feel valued, to feel loved. We get stressed. We’re not sure. Things gnaw at us.

    And there’s so much that can trigger this anxiousness. Those in power, or those who want to have power over us play on our fears. Are the terrorists going to get you? Are those struggling immigrants going to take your job? Are your teeth yellowing? Do you need a boob job? Here, we’ll make you feel better, we’ll keep you safe, keep people who are different away from you and the things to which you are entitled. Buy this truck and you’ll manly. Drink this soda, and you’ll be satisfied. Shop, shop, shop for clothes. Decorate your house over and over. Feel safe, be numb, be numb.

    I don’t think people are as lazy as some claim. I don’t believe they are necessarily afraid of thinking. Even rationalizing can be quite a mental exercise. But they’re terrified of feeling those uncomfortable feelings. They’re terrified of feeling pain. They turn their eyes from the homeless people. They flip the channels rather than think about the people just over the border who are hungry, of children in rags living in shacks, of dying forests and ocean gyres choked with garbage, of riots and wars and genocides.

    You look at teh lolruses and teh p0rn and you wonder, with all the capability of teh intrawebs, why this? It is emotional. It is people struggling with overwhelming emotions. It is fear. Not all of it, certainly. But if you want to know why the bulk of any media is drivel, this is why.

    You can numb yourself out with anything, with the internet, with books, with sitcoms or booze or drugs or Second Life or trips to the mall. But you can also use many of these things for positive purposes. Okay, I’m hard-pressed to figure out what good comes out of “Everybody Loves Raymond” ( I don’t, didn’t love Lucy either…) but books and wikis, and even drugs and Second Life can be experiences that allow people to learn and grow. There is that potential. If you’re doing something, you can adapt. If you’re doing something, you’re closer to feeling and opening up and thinking than if you are watching Regis while you microwave the kid’s PopTarts.

    With a sitcom, there just isn’t so much potential for the viewer. You just sit there on the couch and take whatever they dish out. And you get softened up, get passive, get prepped for consumption of product or ideology or whatever. On television only certain topics are permitted, only certain types of thought and there is NO dialog.

    Couch potatoes get sliced, diced and julienne-fried. They get mashed. They get eaten.

    The goal of television is to make you flatline and do as you’re told.

    I vote for the internet, lolcats and all.

  76. Shane says:

    @ Wrybread… so you dismiss spoonies dismissiveness by in turn using your own dismissiveness based on stereotype?

    Sorry, but the irony kinda yelled out at me. Since these kind of discussions can turn into the an infinite looop, and you, in turn my complain about me dismissing your dismissing of someone elses dismissiveness, I’ll just cut to the chase. YOUR BAND SUCKS. ;)

  77. Stefan Jones says:

    #37: “95% of anything is crap.”

    Sir, please do your homework before you quote the great Theodore Sturgeon.

    It’s 90%. You’ve gone and halved the amount of non-crap in their world.

  78. Shane says:

    Hmmm… sorry about that double post. I was away from the desk for a while and did a refresh on the screen that said “thanks for posting (or whatever it says).

    @Kennric, guilty as charged. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to read it yet, but maybe will so later.

    @Wry, tx for the reply. I understand, I don’t think he was Foxnewsing BB, rather, I think we can all admit there’s a decent amount of snark on BB. I find a lot of the humor here especially to be very … um… narrow in terms of the demographic. NOT THAT THERE’S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. ;)

    Oh, and to be a bit snarky myself, most internet debaters will tell you that’s a fairly common logic fallacy (shoot the messenger or summat).

  79. eustace says:

    slashdot has picked this up btw; and there is a link there to a shirky talk at harvard –

    http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/interactive/events/2008/02/shirky

    this one downloadable as video

  80. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    @114: Well put!
    I’d like to add one more point about commercial broadcast TV. It looks on the surface like a medium for delivering information and entertainment to consumers. It’s really a medium for delivering consumers to advertisers. Advertisers pay for it and it serves their interests first. If commercial TV is delivering something that you like, it’s largely because they know it will keep your eyes on the screen until the next advertisement.

  81. Stefan Jones says:

    From 1964:

    The electric age of servomechanisms suddenly releases men from the mechanical and specialist servitude of the preceding machine age. As the machine and the motorcar released the horse and projected it into the plane of entertainment, so does automation with men. We are suddenly threatened with a liberation that taxes our inner resources of self-employment and imaginative participation in society.”
    . . .

    “. . . the social and educational patterns latent in automation are those of self-employment and artistic autonomy. Panic about automation as a threat of uniformity on a world scale is the projection into the future of mechanical standardization and specialism, which are now past.”

    Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media

  82. creative intuition says:

    And all the video games in the world contain 100 million of Hours of playing (especially if you take into account MMOs like World of Warcraft and Everquest). And don’t even get me started with the internet. Now if we step back and talk ‘fun games’ and ‘useful websites’ it drops to some where in the 1 to 100 million hour range.

  83. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Cat and Girl weighs in on TV culture:

    http://catandgirl.com/archive/cg0594tv.gif

  84. Wickedashtray says:

    I’ve watched a grand total of perhaps 10 hours of TV in the past 2 years. Not that I’m using that time constructively mind you……

  85. Man On Pink Corner says:

    I’m not sure I’m OK with the notion that I’m accountable to humanity as a whole for putting my “cognitive capacity” to its optimal use.

    That way lies madness, or at least the Matrix.

    Here’s an idea: I’ll watch TV if I feel like it, and I’ll edit Wikipedia if I feel like doing that instead.

  86. Takuan says:

    I’ve sat in front of the tube longer than some of the life times of some posters here.

  87. Conservationist says:

    95% of everything is crap because it’s designed for the 95% of people with nothing going on in their heads (and only about half of them can blame a biological lack of intelligence, e.g. low IQ).

  88. davidmaguire says:

    I would be really interested in finding out how many people have quit watching TV in the last five years.

    After the “reality TV” boom, which coincided with my jumping ship from the family unit and moving on to my own life and academic pursuits I dropped TV completely.

    I watch about 2-4 hours a month now when I am at other peoples houses, and the whole experience has become really foreign, flipping channels gets really tedious and it feels like there is an information overload… but all the information is along the same tract and very little of it actually provides any gratification.

  89. Antinous says:

    I stopped watching TV three years ago when I realized that anything that made me agitated and depressed was inconsistent with my goal of being happy. I had gotten to the point where I wouldn’t allow myself to watch anything but home makeover shows and re-runs of That 70s Show. It seems like everything on TV involves violent crime/autopsies or fake-looking people voting other fake-looking people off of a fake-looking something.

  90. Takuan says:

    you have to multitask; have two lap tops going (one reference, one current task) TV on with sound off, radio on and print media strewn around with current library selections. You need remotes for everything and the music media library should be close at hand. Land line as well as cell of course nearby for meatworld factcheck. Possibly an extra few systems or monitors at least. Altar and knives as well.

  91. yish says:

    @48 KENNRIC, this is the internet. qed. however, some people haven’t even read Cory’s summary – as illustrated by the contribution of links to Clay’s Harvard talk.

    I find it poetic that comments on Clay’s blog are broken (http://www.herecomeseverybody.org/2008/04/comments-broken.html) and its really no big deal. Pub bell rung? take the conversation on to the next one down the street.

    @50 Stefan Jones: mea culpa. and I didn’t even know I was quoting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Sturgeon#Sturgeon.27s_Law

    See, stick around and you learn something. Wouldn’t get that on Archie.

  92. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    The less TV you watch, the more the stupid parts annoy you. Quit for a month and you’ll find yourself rolling your eyes at commercials that you would have ignored previously.
    My problem with broadcast TV is the amount of it that you have to ignore to get what you want. The commercials and interruptions drive me nuts. I watch the good shows when they come out on DVD and I’m in charge of the scheduling, not a network.
    I think music probably takes the place of TV in my life. Many people leave TV on and ‘ignore it’ while they do something else. I can’t do that. Moving pictures in a box constantly grab my attention. But I have music playing for all but about 4 waking hours a day.

  93. Takuan says:

    “The first Professor I saw was in a very large Room, with forty Pupils about him. After Salutation, observing me to look earnestly upon a Frame, which took up the greatest part of both the Length and Breadth of the Room, he said perhaps I might wonder to see him employed in a Project for improving speculative Knowledge by practical and mechanical Operations. But the World would soon be sensible of its Usefulness, and he flattered himself that a more noble exalted Thought never sprung in any other Man’s Head. Every one knew how laborious the usual Method is of attaining to Arts and Sciences; whereas by his Contrivance, the most ignorant Person at a reasonable Charge, and with a little bodily Labour, may write Books in Philosophy, Poetry, Politicks, Law, Mathematicks and Theology, without the least Assistance from Genius or Study. He then led me to the Frame, about the Sides whereof all his Pupils stood in Ranks. It was twenty Foot Square, placed in the middle of the Room. The Superficies was composed of several bits of Wood, about the bigness of a Dye, but some larger than others. They were all linked together by slender Wires. These bits of Wood were covered on every Square with Paper pasted on them, and on these Papers were written all the Words of their Language, in their several Moods, Tenses, and Declensions, but without any Order. The Professor then desired me to observe, for he was going to set his Engine at Work. The Pupils at his Command took each of them hold of an Iron Handle, whereof there were fourty fixed round the Edges of the Frame, and giving them a sudden turn, the whole Disposition of the Words was entirely changed. He then commanded six and thirty of the Lads to read the several Lines softly as they appeared upon the Frame; and where they found three or four Words together that might make part of a Sentence, they dictated to the four remaining Boys who were Scribes. This Work was repeated three or four Times, and at every turn the Engine was so contrived that the Words shifted into new Places, as the Square bits of Wood moved upside down.”

  94. Bonnie says:

    Shirky’s speech serves as a great reminder that life shouldn’t be a spectator sport. Making media is usually more rewarding than consuming it.

  95. eigengrau says:

    My online reading habits are starting to spill over into my print reading. Frequently now when I’m reading something in the newspaper or a magazine I get the reflexive urge to highlight/Google something that I want more detail on. I get frustrated with the linear and non-hyperlinked nature of the print format. Anybody else experience that?

    I find myself getting frustrated even at websites that don’t format things well, or search intelligently – for instance, after shopping a site with intelligent filters and a way to remove all items based on specific criteria, it seems ridiculous and wasteful to have to sort through a list based on an arbitrary item number – some modern sites still don’t allow you to sort even by price!

    I find myself feeling the same with all sorts of media – I get irritated when I have to look at things that the computer could sort out for me – and not because I’m easily angered. It is just becoming increasingly apparent how efficiently computers can organize things for us, and it is less and less excusable for a website, or any medium, to make me waste my time.

    I still watch TV, but mostly only shows that I download, so I can watch when I want, where I want, with no commercials. I think a lot of the trend is about control – when I have tools at my disposal to instantly remove everything that doesn’t interest me, why should I do differently? I am pretty defensive about who gets my little slice of mindshare, I guess.

  96. noen says:

    “95% of everything is crap.”

    Should be changed to: 95% of everything is stuff I don’t like. Since the universe only exists to serve me and my ego everything that I don’t like but that you do is therefore crap.

    On the other hand it is all one big time sink and I need to curtail the amount of time I spend surfing and do some productive stuff. Yeah, any day now I’ll get to it.

  97. Spoon says:

    @#58 posted by Conservationist , April 27, 2008 3:11 PM

    Half of people lack intelligence due to biology? is that a joke, an assumption, or based on an actual study across thousands of people and millions of genetic markers? I for one don’t believe anyone should even remotely be considering that -ever-

  98. knifie_sp00nie says:

    Let me try to expand on my post some. I’ve drawn some attention. The internet must be working, or failing depending on your point of view. In the great sea of content, I’ve managed to stand out in this puddle for a brief second. Would that mean that whatever I wrote, wrong or right, has been more thought provoking or at least entertaining? That I warranted replies mean that my words had more value when considering the interaction as a whole?

    I’d say that Fox news learned a thing or two from the internet and not the other way around. Love it or hate it, the inflamatory gets attention over the most well-reasoned statement. So when I write on discussion boards, I paint with a broad brush and prefer to get some sort of validation for my effort.

    And that leads into a big aspect of having so many producers. Do we all do it for just the fullfilment? I honestly hope we get there some day, but despite the promises of the newsreels, robots and computers have not reduced the amount of time I spend at work. Then I go maintain a household, maintain my body, and hope I have enough energy left over to do something more worthwhile than watch TV.

    Sometimes the waking sleep of TV is all I can handle. If we want to equate down time with wasting brain cycles, then where do you draw the line? Is 8 hours of sleep too much when 4 will keep you alive? REM sleep lights up more of the brain than reading, arguably making it a superior activity, but then most people go and waste the time by not recalling all of their dreams.

    If we were a monoculture we’d get even more done because we wouldn’t be wasting time arguing about Bush vs. everyone or which version of Dungeons and Dragons is the best. Why do we draw the arbitrary line at TV? You can’t have YouTube without the original tube.

    Elitism… Sure. What else can you call it when you judge someone else’s choices that don’t impinge on you? We can talk about 95% crap and almost never reach consensus on what 95% is actually crap. We can all cite our IQ scores and feel smug, but history will forget almost all of us.

    I’m potentially just as good a writer or better than Cory Doctorow. The difference is that he has the drive or ego or whatever to consistently put himself out there and never stop. I took the easy route and got a cushy IT job. Five percent of the world thinking you’re talented is a huge number, but 95% thinking you make crap is even larger. If we want to encourage open contribution, then we should probably stop being so harsh in our criticism.

    I really wasn’t trying to argue that TV is better or worse than reading a book or crocheting genitalia, just that any medium can suffer from mediocrity and the new thing isn’t without flaws. I’m on the side of creativity over TV, but the notion that I’m wasting time by not working to my full potential is a demon that keeps me up at night and ultimately, from being creative.

    There’s nothing new under the sun, including this debate.

  99. Tom says:

    Is it a cognitive surplus or a mere attentive surplus? There is a lot more to cognition than attention, and yet the arguments here seem to be more about where people’s attention is focussed than anything else.

    This makes sense inasmuch as primate societies tend to be ordered by attention. That is, the alpha monkey isn’t necessarily the biggest or strongest or toughest, but is the one that is most successful in commanding the troop’s attention. Where and how we allocate our attention is a fundamental determinant of our social structure.

    The ‘Net makes it very, very difficult for a small number of voices to dominate everyone’s attention they way the old media did.

    But to pretend that there is much cognition going on here would be a mistake.

    One measure of cognitive activity is how often someone changes their mind about something. In over a decade of active participation in a variety of forums I have seen very few instances of anyone changing their mind about anything substantive. That is, cases where there is a disagreement on a substantive issue, followed by a discussion or argument, followed by a resolution where one party has convinced the other or both have reached a different consensus view.

    This suggests that while there is a great deal of activity on the ‘Net, there is very little cognitive activity.

  100. kevinr says:

    It’s worth noting that, while sitcoms were produced assuming passive consumption, the viewers weren’t always being passive — the extensive fanwikis of today are only the latest manifestation of fans appropriating and building on “passive” entertainment. (See also fan fiction, just for starters, which was around long before the Internet.) Even viewers of fairly formulaic TV shows like Law and Order develop complex relationships with the characters in them. Even small variation in the presentation of the characters over time gets layered, again and again, in kind of a palimpsest, building something much more complex in repetition than could ever be built with a single, extremely nuanced presentation. (Have you ever watched a movie over and over, finding more in it each time? The same thing happens with successive episodes of a television show.)

    Ironically, I’ve found that when — as I have lately — I want an easily-discretized form of entertainment which is engaging but not too engaging, the Internet has me watching more television than I used to and not less. Partly it’s about the people I’m around in real life and watching what they watch so I can share it with them, and partly it’s about television finally starting to produce things I find it worthwhile to watch (ie. longer story arcs and more character depth), but mostly it’s about Bittorrent making it easy to find the good stuff in a way that’s viewable on my own terms. I’m engaging with the stuff I watch in all kinds of ways, though, and the Internet makes it much more a two-way street.

  101. Antinous says:

    On the other hand it is all one big time sink

    When someone tells me that they don’t have enough time to do something which might be beneficial to them, I point out that we all have the same amount of hours in the day. We just have different priorities for how to occupy them.

    Half of people lack intelligence due to biology?

    If you set the mean or the median or whatever you call it as the norm, then half the population gets to be called stupid. It’s self-referential.

    We can all cite our IQ scores and feel smug

    Don’t mention that in a WalMart thread. It would be mean.

  102. Takuan says:

    Dear Tom

    I change my mind constantly. I just never admit it.

  103. noen says:

    knifie_sp00nie
    “Would that mean that whatever I wrote, wrong or right, has been more thought provoking or at least entertaining?”

    Yes, that would be it. There was no animosity on my part. Hope you understand that I was just replying to someone who was WRONG on the internet. ;)

    “Then I go maintain a household, maintain my body, and hope I have enough energy left over to do something more worthwhile than watch TV.”

    Meh… you have a body? Lucky you, all I have is this vat here and once in a while I can hear the bubbles as they gently massage my brain tissue. Bastard.

    “I’m potentially just as good a writer or better than Cory Doctorow.”

    You are also potentially food for Cthulhu but I wouldn’t go around saying that too loudly. He’s bound to hear you and you could end up in a vat. You’ll have to get one of your own, I’ve got no room in here for you.

    Tom says:
    “while there is a great deal of activity on the ‘Net, there is very little cognitive activity.”

    Oh sure but how would us neurons know what the great hive mind is thinking? Oh wait… here comes another cascade…. hummm, maybe that was “hive mind can haz kitteh?”

  104. Antinous says:

    I change my mind constantly. I just never admit it.

    Why? There’s no nobler quality. When one realizes that one’s own opinions might change with the morrow, it’s impossible to be dogmatic about other people’s opinions.

  105. Takuan says:

    I used to, but it just confuses people

  106. sproing3 says:

    Great post pipenta. If BB were a cofee shop and you were reading from the stage, you’d have created a receptive audience of groupies. In a better world that post would get you laid.

  107. sproing3 says:

    “In over a decade of active participation in a variety of forums I have seen very few instances of anyone changing their mind about anything substantive. ”

    This insight is the reason why I’ve decided that writing must include propaganda to be effective.

  108. Takuan says:

    “propaganda” is such a tawdry word. I prefer “the revealed wisdom of myself, granted to the needy”.

  109. Jake0748 says:

    Hmm, I don’t like propaganda. No, wait, yes I do!

    Wait… I just changed my mind.

  110. cuvtixo says:

    “I have seen very few instances of anyone changing their mind…””I change my mind constantly…””When one realizes that one’s own opinions might change with the morrow, blah, blah blah”
    When different opinions are expressed, others may suspect you are talking, on the morrrow, out of your butt! I believe Ben Franklin said that, or maybe it was Jesús.

  111. Antinous says:

    Thanks for your seminal contribution to the discussion.

  112. Takuan says:

    would you like a tissue?

  113. Antinous says:

    Ponder the source, not the emission.

  114. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    I just went back to read in detail the lecture transcript, which I had skimmed before. The guy is FUNNY. I’m putting this book on my to-get list.

    “(T)he only thing society could do to manage was to drink itself into a stupor for a generation. The stories from that era are amazing– there were gin pushcarts working their way through the streets of London. ”

    Now there’s a job for me: Pushcart Gin Vendor.

  115. sproing3 says:

    If you don’t like the connotations of “propaganda”, think instead in terms of neuro-linguistic-programming, or seduction, or poetic resonance, or emotionally gripping narrative. Since rationality rarely moves opinion, we must marshall all forces.

  116. Takuan says:

    Go look up the history of alcohol consumption in America. You may be quite surprised at the volume per person a century or so ago.

  117. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Okay, just a minute. Jeepers. I didn’t know there’d be a quiz…

  118. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Okay. Here you go: US alcohol consumption per capita, 1850 – 2005

    http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/Resources/DatabaseResources/QuickFacts/AlcoholSales/consum01.htm

  119. Antinous says:

    Does that count screech?

  120. cuvtixo says:

    A gin cart pusher would need to operate in a community of alcoholics who value the service highly enough to ensure his safety.
    What is this about the “only” thing society could do! A society drinking itself into a stupor may be the highest achievement possible! For example, Koala bears seem to be pretty happy eating fermented eucalyptus leaves all day…

  121. jonesy says:

    Television is nothing more than a tool, utilised by the liberal media for the purpose of keeping the pigs of the current regime in power. I find nothing but agony in the mind-numbing drivel of the sit-com universe, the “dramas,” which are about as interesting as watching red paint dry, and the “liberal” “news” “media,” which exists only to keep the propaganda machine running under the auspices of “democratic government.” I shudder to think of the human potential which could be realised if only we spent our time solving the problems of human existence rather than becoming the zombies of a new generation. One day, the Proletariat will rise. All right, time to go watch Deep Space Nine.

  122. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    What’s screech?
    It includes beer, wine and spirits.
    2005: 2.24 gallons of ethanol/capita over 14(!) years of age in the US.
    1905: 2.39 gallons
    1980: 2.76 (burp!)

  123. soupisgoodfood says:

    My take on this is that it’s like suggesting that if we cut down on sleep, we’d get more work done. We still need sleep and are generally better for it (that’s certainly what the science side of things suggests). Some of us like our TV time (although, I only buy, rent, or download — TV adds are too disruptive). It allows me to reflect on various things in life, often unrelated to what’s happening on TV. That’s how I work.

    You can calculate all sorts of what-if scenarios like this article seems to have tried to do, but they always ignore the complexity that is the real world.

    Perhaps Shirky could use some awareness meditation time?

  124. Takuan says:

    and again, put yer blog URL in yer profile not yer posts

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