who will write this stuff ?

November 21, 2008

A bit more about Clay Shirkey. Observing blogs, wikipedia, and the rest of Web 2.0, the question is asked: “Where do people find the time?” Clay points out that we’ve had the time since the rise of the 5 day, 40 hour work-week, and thus far that time has been primarily absorbed by television. But now, projects like wikipedia are providing an alternative use of “the cognitive surplus”. According to Clay, we’ve only seen the beginning of the effects of new uses of that surplus:

So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project–every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in–that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, “Where do they find the time?” when they’re looking at things like Wikipedia don’t understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that’s finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

Paradoxically, I’m convinced by Shirky for “society” at large, but I still don’t know where I will find the time. Or anybody else I know. And I don’t know where Dave Snowden finds the time – though he obviously does. Something doesn’t add up.

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