Clay Shirky gave a speech which is now out on the the net about Gin, Television, and Social Surplus. You should read it right now. He’s talking about participatory media and how it isn’t just a fad, it is the way society is finally adapting to the surplus time we’ve created since World War II. Some bits:
But beneath that ["Where do they find the time to engage in flamewars on Wikipedia?"] question was another thought, this one not a question but an observation. In this same conversation with the TV producer I was talking about World of Warcraft guilds, and as I was talking, I could sort of see what she was thinking: "Losers. Grown men sitting in their basement pretending to be elves." At least they're doing something. Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan's Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don't? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn't posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. 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. And I'm willing to raise that to a general principle. It's better to do something than to do nothing.
That principle is important, maybe the most important thing I’ve learned in the last couple of years. And it smacks me around because of the way I spend my time now. My job is not a “do something” kind of job. Which is fine. I’ve always said I didn’t want to be defined by where I work. But it means I have to use my time surplus to create stuff. Even if it’s crappy. Even if a million people can make better stuff than mine and get paid money to do so. Doing something is important, even if it’s not.clay shirky gilligan's island gin social surplus tv world of warcraft