Clay Shirky gave his great talk about cognitive surplus on TED Talks recently. His definition of “cognitive surplus” is shared online work that people do with “spare” brain cycles. Things like editing Wikipedia- things that build a better world, using the collaboration of many to improve things. (Very generally) Shirky says we are driven to “engagement” (editing a Wikipedia page) rather than “consumption” (watching TV) because of intrinsic motivation.
In seemingly unrelated news, Improv Everywhere, the undercover comedy agents who “cause scenes of chaos and joy in public places,” released a new video yesterday- a reenactment of a scene between Darth Vader and Princess Leia…but on a New York City subway car.
I love Improv Everywhere. I love them because they put something magical and unexpected in front of an audience that only expects the mundane…and they change the rest of the day for those people. They take what is normal and they transform it- they mix and match things and places we know with things and places that don’t belong there. And it is 100% positive and affirming humor. There is only joy in their performance- a performance that depends upon the reaction of the audience as validation that they are part of something special that is happening, right now.
And right now their performances are important, because I think we all have a great deal of in-person emotional surplus. The cognitive surplus that Shirky talks about is important- it’s people generously giving their time and effort to help build something that makes the world better. And we feel rewarded. But at the same time, I think the reward we feel from those interactions is less rewarding than the reward of in-person generosity and engagement. We are becoming more accustomed to online stimuli as a means of emotional fuel but like a drug, the high is less and less each time and more and more online stimuli is needed. The reason is that online tribes can’t replace in-person ones.
This isn’t a ding on the internet! Obviously, I’m a heavy user, and the positives associated with the online communities we’ve built are incredible. But I think dependence on these interactions have left us craving personal interactions. Our cognitive surplus can leave an emotional gap if we’re not careful. People want to react positively to something real. We want to laugh with a stranger. We want to connect on a subway. Humans used to have a tribe of 150 people that we saw everyday, that we laughed with everday. We now have much larger tribes- but how many of those people do we laugh with in-person on a daily basis? What’s an LOL worth?
So maybe we crave these personal interactions. And isn’t THIS a great way to have them?
Instead of studying for my upcoming finals (especially that pesky stats class….), I figured blogging would be much better.
Topic today is Online Video, which I think, as a burgeoning industry, is at a fascinating intersection of consumer demand and owner monetization. I’ve done a couple projects on it at school this year, and I just read two great articles that made me think some more. (Note: by online video, I’m referring to studio-owned digital streaming video, like you’ll find on Hulu or ABC.com- I’m not talking about user-generated content on YouTube which is another horse entirely.)
To kick-start the conversation, I wrote a quick survey I’d love your response on- just click on the link and fill it out: Online Video Survey
Now that you’ve filled it out, there are two articles I found really interesting. One was on Lifehacker; the other was written by DeVer Warner, another Darden student, on his blog.
1. What Would Make “Virtual Cable” Work: DeVer has a really insightful blog post on making virtual cable a viable alternative to traditional cable TV. Two thought-provoking extracts below but definitely read the full post:
- Comparable subscription charges: “The key to making this content available may be comparable subscription fees for cable channels as well as subscription fees for broadcast content. I believe another way to juice the deal would be to show a minimal amount of ads, sold via the provider’s own sales force, with a compelling revenue share for the biggest content owners.”
- Real-time as well as on-demand programming: “Users must be able to experience the programming that is best viewed live – sports, reality, awards shows, etc. – live (more on this in another post here). If that portion of the cable experience can be replicated, a virtual cable service can begin to differentiate itself by making everything on demand as well.”
2. Going Without Cable: Lifehacker’s post is a comprehensive guide to going fully online for TV; no more cable. The post covers places to find content (studio owned websites, aggregate websites like Hulu (partially owned by the studios), subscription sites like Netflix, pay-per-show models like iTunes, etc.) as well as the delays to view shows, the pricing associated with these models, etc. This is interesting because we are seeing TV-watchers go fully online now. These aren’t people who don’t watch TV, so they don’t mind only tuning in once a month to see an interesting show online. These are people who watch streaming digital studio content on a daily basis. The latest comScope report showed the enormous rise in “minutes watched” on Hulu since last year, so despite lacking the changes DeVer mentions that would make online TV truly competitive, it continues to grow.
No conclusions in this post- just wanted to bring some of the interesting discussions up. I’ll continue this tomorrow with some analysis.