The changing nature of mass telecommunication

Slashdot covered a story that inspired a whole line of thought. Wikipedia represents 100 million hours of thought, approximately. That represents a unit of time that is vaguely meaningful: it is a very useful product that took a lot of people a lot of time and effort. So how many wikipedias worth of effort do we spend watching television? In the US alone, “we have been burning 2,000 Wikipedias per year watching mostly sitcoms.”

And, by my estimate, we have spent about 300 wikipedias watching advertisements every year.

The horror of that statement is still registering in my mind. In a sense, the supreme, central cultural goal of our culture has been to live up to the expectations we see on the glowing tube.

But the beautiful thing is that the tide is shifting. Wikipedia couldn’t exist until now, but times have changed. The old media did not see themselves as the sponge to soak up surplus hours. They saw themselves as the shepherds of those in need of entertainment. Then they saw themselves as the elite, entitled to power and money based on their positions as the conduit through which the consumer saw the world.

Well, their tall towers are crumbling. They had a monopoly on information transmission, and it has been broken. Amusingly, the DOJ had nothing to do with it. They want the DOJ to protect them, but it is too late. It’s as though they controlled the only well in the desert, but a lake has appeared. They want it to be illegal to take water from the lake. They want people to keep coming to their foetid well. Wouldn’t you?