Miro Internet TV Blog

We have tons of free time and we’re looking for the mouse.

May 13th, 2008 by Nicholas Reville

An excellent speech by Clay Shirky about participation with culture: Gin, Television, and Social Surplus. He begins with the point that the amount of effort that goes into Wikipedia is tiny compared to the surplus of free time people have.

“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.”

“I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she’s going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn’t what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, “What you doing?” And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, “Looking for the mouse.”

“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.”

2 Responses to “We have tons of free time and we’re looking for the mouse.”

  1. Tamas Simon says:

    thanks for this article, it’s great. I couldn’t agree more.
    btw what’s planned for Miro in this regard? widgets?

  2. WebTV says:

    “100 million hours of human thought”
    somewhat unrelated, but think about the value of that thought – both economically and socially.

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