The cognitive surplus of the web and how we can use it for make the world a better place.
Recently I have seen the speech of Professor Clay Shirky held at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco on 23th of april 2008. He brought up a good example to picture what is happening with the web today and how it can be used to activate people more.
Two numbers. Wikipedia as it is today consists of 100 Million hours of cognitive input from its contributors around the world. A big number. But if you take the number of hours TV is watched per annum in the U.S. only – 200 Billion hours(!!) – than you slowly start realizing what potential lies within the interaction between humans enabled by the web. If the people would do „wikipedia-style“-things online instead of watching TV there could be 2000 wikipedia-like projects more – every year.
Well, of course not all the interaction online is as senseful as writing a good wikipedia article. Facebook-entries, myspace-postings, adding & tagging your photos on flickr, reading & commenting articles of your favorite online newspaper – all different qualities of „acting“, but all are more senseful than watching TV, because in one way or the other they connecting us more and more. For a better basic understanding of this aspect I recommend the great video of Dr. Michael Wesch of the cultural antropological department of Kansas State University „The Machine is Us/ing Us“.
Now lets focus on social networks. There are many of them, mega-sites like facebook, orkut or myspace, business oriented ones like Xing or LinkIn, and thousands of special interest communities for/with/from young parents, stamp collectors, sportfans….you name it.
All of this online activity reflects into the real world. We can talk about the newest pictures on flickr, we meet new people with same interest cause we first encountered them online.
And yes, you can not only meet friends online, you can also contribute with your money, your time, your spirit and your skills for make the world a better place via websites like http://www.betterplace.org.
The web of trust on http://www.betterplace.org will show you the connections you have with people who are fascinate by one of the projects people in need for help put online. You can read their blogs, you can see the progress of the supported projects via the blog entries and photos on each project site.
So, I just wanted to show that to become an active member of the betterplace-society will not „cost“ valuable time of your life. Acting on betterplace.org is just one, very important, aspect of the liberation of cognitive (and therefore real) surplus which is created by Web 2.0, by beginning to use the web to make the planet more just, more green and more peaceful.
It is not difficult, because we all want to be part of a mankind which is walking towards a better understanding. Start today by selecting your first project on betterplace.org, by telling your friends of betterplace.org, become another knot of the web of trust and use your cognitive surplus to give joy and encouragement to people in need of it.