Cognitive surplus: creativity and generosity in a connected age

Just in the United States, Clay Shirky maintains, we collectively watch about 200 billion hours of TV every year. For a vast majority of us, watching TV is essentially a part-time job.

What would the world be like if many of us quit our TV-watching gigs? Critics of television have long lamented its opportunity costs, but Shirky’s inquiry into what we might join together to do instead if we weren’t watching TV isn’t as fantastical as previous efforts. That’s because for the first time since the advent of television, something strange is happening — we’re turning it off. Young people are increasingly substituting computers, mobile phones and other Internet-­enabled devices for TV.

The time we might free up by ditching TV is Shirky’s “cognitive surplus” — an ocean of hours that society could contribute to endeavors far more useful and fun than television. With the help of a researcher at I.B.M., Shirky calculated the total amount of time that people have spent creating one such project, Wikipedia. The collectively edited online encyclopedia is the product of about 100 million hours of human thought, Shirky found. In other words, in the time we spend watching TV, we could create 2,000 Wikipedia-size projects — and that’s just in America, and in just one year.

Seen on Reddit: "I just finished 'The Wire' which was by far one of the best series ever. Now I'm depressed. What should I watch next? Is there anything else that can compare to The Wire's awesomeness?"

An interesting thread over at reddit suggests there just might not be a lot of great TV around for the watching. Most comments are around the same few shows. I've excerpted one summary comment below.

In the thread, the top suggestion was Deadwood, while the most praised show not mentioned below was Rome. Everyone said Rome was fantastic, but that it was canceled after two seasons because it had cost too much to make. Honorable mentions to Weeds and Californication, but presumably they aren't everyone's cup of tea.

The best of all time in order of greatness:

-The Wire (many many times better than anything else)
-Mad Men
-West Wing
-Breaking Bad
-Big Love (good until this past season)
-Six Feet Under
-Eastbound and Down--funny but does not deserve to be mentioned with the above shows (only 1 season so far)

-Also extremely good but only done as a mini-series:

-Band of Brothers
-Generation Kill (done by many of the same folks that did The Wire)
-The Corner (done by many of the same folks that did The Wire)

Some older series you might consider:

-Mash--that'll keep you busy for a while and it never gets old

Haven't seen these myself but I hear they're very good:

-Oz (you may need to prepare yourself mentally for this one...kind of rough)
-The Shield

Creators of 'Lost' say they won't tie up all those loose ends

"There's a lot of little questions that unfortunately we just don't have time to answer in the amount of time that we have left," co-creator Cuse told the uber-fans.

What with trying to keep all the intertwining story lines straight, it's probably slipped his mind that the "time we lave left" was determined years ago by Cuse and Lindelof themselves, which would seem to suggest that running out of time was something they had, um, planned.

Back in May of 2007, ABC and the creative team behind the weedy tangle of a series announced the show would end in the spring of 2010. Nearly three years later, at the Paleyfest, Cuse said of any unresolved plot issues: "Ultimately, the way we look at it is that if the characters don't care about that question, then we as storytellers don't care about that question."

Of course, what the characters do and do not care about is decided upon by . . . well, Cuse and Lindelof, come to think of it. Because the characters are, you know, not real people.

"We feel like the show should stand on its own," Cuse said. "We're actually not going to comment on the show after the finale. We want everybody to basically be able to continue the dialogue. . . . We don't think it's really appropriate for us to say, 'Oh, here is the official definition for what we meant by any particular moment on the show.' "

Let's recap, shall we? The show's creators say it's not appropriate for the show's creators to give the "official definition" of what they, the show's creators, meant by any particular moment on the show they created.