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CTDL 159: A Wikipedia on the ad breaks

The more I read about it, the more I think I’m destined to read Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody. This little excerpt from a talk he gave on the subject is a great example of why.

She heard this story and she shook her head and said, “Where do people find the time?” That was her question. And I just kind of snapped. And I said, “No one who works in TV gets to ask that question. You know where the time comes from. It comes from the cognitive surplus you’ve been masking for 50 years.”

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.

[From Gin, Television, and Social Surplus - Here Comes Everybody]

How many people have said to you (yourself included) something along the lines of “Some people have too much time on their hands”? I know I’ve said it often enough that when you put it in context of “everybody doing a little” it’s not that much. Granted, this doesn’t take into account the people who spend two years worth of evenings and weekends building an arcade video-game cabinet in the shape of the Tardis (which I’m very impressed by), but it’s a fine way to look at the internet information phenomenon.


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