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Consuming, producing, and sharing--what to do with the surplus of human thought-hours

peteralway linked to a very interesting article, called "Looking for the mouse."  [edit: the article is actually called "Gin, Television and Social Surplus."  I conflated the title of Peter's post with the title of the piece he was referring to.  Sorry.]

For those who don't have time to read it, the basic points (I think) are these:

1) since WWII, there has been an increase in the amount of human free time available.
2) for a long time, a lot of that free time was soaked up by TV--most people passively consumed entertainment (or sometimes information) but did not significantly contribute to it.
3) with the rise of participatory projects on the internet (the author mentions Wikipedia as an example, but things like Flickr and Youtube occur to me as well) it has become more and more possible for people to direct their free time into producing and sharing information (and entertainment).
4) 1% of the present TV-watching time would add up to 10,000 Wikipedias.
5) kids are very familiar with the participatory nature of entertainment (the title is about a small child mistaking a TV for a computer and looking for the mouse so she can give her input) and thus presumably information. The author implies that the trend for participating will only increase.

I find this both fascinating and hopeful. On the other hand, it looks to me like this may be one of those ideas that takes off on the Internet because it fits in with our worldview ("Progress is good; participation is good; technological progress makes more participation possible; we'll put our brains together and make the earth a better place.") but maybe not so much because it's true.

What do you think?



I think you nailed it. There is a place for participatory entertainment, obviously, but just as the ebook will not replace the hard-copy book (as long as electricity has a cost, anyway), interactive entertainment will never supplant the kind where one or more people create something and everyone else simply enjoys it. Grow how it may, and I'm sure that it will.

That more people are being creative thanks to such things, though, is indeed a good and hopeful sign. I've always maintained that creativity isn't limited to a fortunate few. If I can do it, anyone can.

Some ideas just sound good. The Countess and I have had several um frank exchanges of views with one of our friends who was convinced that human actors will soon be entirely replaced by computer animation. This was before Andy Serkis's Gollum showed how important a human performance is to any character, whether real or CGI. I don't know if our friend's opinion has changed in light of that.
Well, I seem to recall there was one movie--"Final Fantasy" or something like that?--that was purely computer animated...

But I think human actors will probably continue to be part of movies; CGI is expensive, and never quite as good as the real thing. Maybe that will change someday, but I doubt it.
Hunh. Of course, humans evolved with much more leisure than we grew up with, and also this newfound leisure may vanish--will vanish if the authoritarians have their way. Taking the hypothesis as given, accepting that we will continue to have substantial leisure time, I think we're going to have to work out social forms that make use of it. This is going to be a lot of work. One of the problems of open net forums is that without careful management, they turn toxic. At least 95% of all e-mail is spam, Usenet has turned into a mess, and even Wikipedia is in the process of going sideways; mass leisure is harder than it looks.
Well, as the article points out, we're talking about so many person hours that even a small fraction of them turned to productive use would could accomplish a lot.
True, true. My favorite remark on this so far comes from tnh; have you seen the discussion over at ML yet?
Thanks. Just posted on the subject here.