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I recently read an article in Wired Magazine by Dan Pink and Clay Shirky called "Cognitive Surplus: The Great Spare-Time Revolution"  and was inspired.  The point made by Dan and Clay is that society has shifted to using spare-time for interactive and pro-active activies instead of one dimensional past times.  For example, moving from TV to the internet.  Clay and Dan estimate that people born in 1960 have already spent 5 years watching TV - astonishing.  But that trend is changing - slowly, but surely.  They estimate that American's alone watch 200 Billion hours of TV per year.  That is insane. 

Dan and Clay go onto to say that if this time could be harnessed, the impact on society would be amazing.  Harness the time spent watching TV, which is already shifting to social media and other self-publishing media, and you will have a real impact. 

Here's my idea.  Let's be realistic.  I don't think that we can capture 200 Billion hours.  So let's focus on one group - everyone who used to watch ABC's LOST.  During it's 6 seasons, LOST averaged about 13.5 Million viewers (source:  What if we just focused on these people?  that's 13.5 million hours a week that can now be used for something more productive and interactive.  The "Cognitive Surpluss" just grew by 13.5 million hours last month.

Dan says in his article that people are motivated by interest rather than the traditional carrot and stick.  If so we just need to find something valuable for these 13.5 million people to do.  We are geeks.  That should be easy.  Let's think about it.  These people were interested in:

1.  Mystery - It needs to be something that makes them think.  Something they have to discover. 

2.  Characters and Relationships - People need to connect to other people.  This should be easy!  Find something social.

3.  Puzzles - A little different than a mystery, something that they have to figure out.  Something to solve.

4.  Interactive - LOST was incredibly interactive for a TV show.  Fans discussed, searched, and blogged about LOST.

These are just some of the things that kept people coming back for 6 years.  We (geeks and programmers) can surely build something to captivate these viewers.  Something new that finds this group of "Losties" (yes - I was a fan).  Maybe a site where they click a button every 108 minutes but for succesful click a sponsor donates $1 to a charity?  Something, but something that gives back and captures this surplus.

What would you do?

Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 11:43 PM | Back to top

Comments on this post: Inspired - The Cognitive Surplus - Capturing Lost

# re: Inspired - The Cognitive Surplus - Capturing Lost
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You forgot that they like watching TV: I've been taken in by NBC's Persons Unknown personally.
Left by Bill Brown on Jul 03, 2010 9:30 AM

# re: Inspired - The Cognitive Surplus - Capturing Lost
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Great article:
Pink: One final question, which I have to ask: What’s your favorite Gilligan’s Island episode?

Shirky: The one where they nearly get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and they don’t.

Pink: [Laughs] Mine too!
Left by Steve Albers on Nov 11, 2010 1:01 PM

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