Cognitive heat-sinks like TV


The industrial revolution brought people the ability to manage something they had for the first time: free time. Rather than finding ways to use it productively, people found ways to sink themselves in an intellectual stupor, where the TV acted as a cognitive heat-sink.

Incredible 15 minutes by Clay Shirky on where our time is wasted and where it can be regenerated: TV.

To rephrase Clay Shirky, people in media are the last ones to ask the question, where people find the time to contribute to projects like Wikipedia. No one who works in TV gets to ask that question. You know where the time comes from. It comes from the cognitive surplus media has been masking for 50 years.

In US alone, people watch television around 200 billion hours. That accounts for 2000 Wikipedia projects.

I haven’t watched TV for 2 years. What a feeling to wake up from dormancy.

In Finland, we have something called the TV fee. It is a permission to consume what you see on public television for a relatively high fee.

With recent development in Finland where people are increasingly fleeing from the duty to pay the permit, the solution is not more content, but more interaction. I was thinking, if this permission to consume could be turned around into a permission to produce. A citizen would get their own TV channel (videocasts, mobile blogs), their own radio channel (podcasts), their own news paper (blogs) and means to tap into the collective action of untapped productive potential of millions of fins and billions of citizens of the spaceship earth (social networking) for a small fee. That’s the direction where nationally funded media should head. I don’t know if there is anyone listening.

I make this statement in an interview with Olli-Pekka Heinonen, who is a director at Finnish National Broadcasting Company. They do have the right attitude, but I have to say that the gears are turning slowly (like with any large behemoth):

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  • Mika Marttila

    It’s about time that people start selecting and contributing instead of just sitting in front of the idiot box. I too haven’t had television for years and its been a blessing.

    Great posting and interesting interview to underline the point.

    Tavallaan ymmärrän Heinosen pointin siitä suuresta osasta sohvaperunoita, jotka haluavat vain yksisuuntaisen television. Mutta kuten Shirky sen sanoi, niin kysymys on myös sukupolvien välisistä eroista. Toiset ovat tottuneet käyttämään kaukosäädintä ja toiset hiirtä. Silti, muutosta — parempaan suuntaan — ei tapahdu, jos sitä vastaan argumentoidaan tuollaisin argumentein.