The bottom line:
in the early phases of the industrial revolution, with the rise of accelerated urbanization, people (esp. in London) didn’t know what to do with the newly acquired “civic surplus” – and they turned to gin until they figured it out and started building public libraries, better education, etc.
In the 20th century, people started having more free time, but had no idea what to do with it – and this is why sitcoms became so extremely popular.
Now, well into the 21st century, perversities such as Big Brother are taking this cognitive surplus safety-net to the extreme.
Yes – to the average web citizen, this abomination of passive media is well below standard in terms of its ability to capture attention.
But to the average non-web-savvy consumer, it’s just about all there is.
Big Brother – the ultimate gin of 2008. The year that Larry Niven thought we’d had interstellar drives (link).
Yep – people sit back and enjoy looking at people with no life building one – while neglecting their own.
But as Clay Shirky says in his (I have to say it again – brilliant) post – we are all looking for the mouse.
Once everyone has a comfortable way of interacting with the media – they will!
If my grandma had a way of influencing the content she’s bombarded with on TV, she would. She would grab that mouse and tell that incompetent excuse for a politician to fuck off and do something useful for a change. Or she would connect with other folks her age or find someone who’s lived through the same borderline bearable times during WW2.
But she can’t do that. I wonder if she ever will.
Yes, the TV she has got now may be HD with a digital signal showing her hunderds of channels from all over the world. But it’s still the same thing as 50 years ago. Channels.
Gin is still gin, it doesn’t matter if it comes through normal post or DHL.
So – one shiny day in 2013 (or sooner, I hope), the huge beast that is mainstream media will be ready to take on clicks.
But will it matter then? Media will be pouring (as it is already) from phones, watches, walls, posters, T-shirts and the like, reacting to your every move.
Videos of missing children with submit forms for clues on milk cartons? Sure! OLED, multitouch, cameras … everything is shrinking, blending, melting into one nearly perfectly connected mesh of peace-seeking individuals (the Borg, anyone?).
It’s all about elegance. And sitting in front of the telly looking at stupid people doing meaningless stuff … passively … is far from elegant.
Step up. Do something. Even if you’re exhausted coming home from work/school/whatever, you’ll end up being the same stupid a-hole you’ve been watching and making fun of every evening if you don’t actually do something.
As Tolstoy (I think, ask Gregor) said – not living out what you were meant to be hurts you.
And I can hardly imagine someone’s purpose in life being watching other people jerk off on TV.