Spectatorship vs. participatory culture

Seth Godin has described "a culture of clickers, stumblers and jaded spectators who decide in the space of a moment whether to watch and participate (or not)". Even though I watch very little TV, what he says resonates for me: often enough I find myself skimming RSS feeds, disengaged. When I become aware of it, I try to turn it around and create something out of it.

Godin's "wow" is the overwhelming, the unattainable. Is your workplace as rough as the Arctic? Can you enter a beater car in an international rally race and come in third? Just as we professionalize our entertainment and even something as instinctive as feeding ourselves, so do these stories wow us into submission.

This narcotic intake of information also distances you from the Zen ideal of focus. Focus, in this view, might be called monotasking. It's doing only what you're doing, being only where and when you are. In Wisdom 2.0, Soren Gordhamer argues that you will only do your best and most creative work when you're thinking about nothing but the task at hand.

I remember hearing, at the height of the Napster phenomenon, about the listening habits of an acquaintance's teenage son. The boy would sit at the computer and click, listen to three seconds of a song, and move on, meanwhile either downloading it or not. The equivalent for me are sites like AcidCow (images) and the Cheezburger Network (captioned photos). The flood of information washes over me, and I batten down the hatches to pass through it more efficiently. It hardly occurs to me to do something with it - submit some photos of my own pets to LOLdogs, or collect some of AcidCow's images into a set that tells a story. But I fight that tendency. When I respond in some way to the flow of information, I try to grab that response and imagine what else I could do with it. I'm doing that with a set of AcidCow photos now - you'll see it in a post to come.


  1. A timely reminder that sometimes, less is more. That incredibly resonant phrase, "narcotic intake of information," will stay with me.

  2. Glad you liked it - that was a last-minute edit.

    I do need to get on that post I promised. Alice has been sick so we've been tied up.