Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus: A Brief Overview and Analysis

Prompt: Are you a television watcher? If so, how does that activity balance with your other “free time” activities? If not, why not? Do you participate in any web sites (other than those you participate in for this class) where you create or edit or contribute without being paid for it? What do you think Shirky means when he says “More is Different?” Are you buying the idea that, as stupid as they might be, LOLCATS represent something different and at least marginally better than passively watching television?

Although I spend a lot of my time idled by a computer screen, I often find myself steering away from watching television on a regular basis. As it stands, I only watch a select few shows (most of which are from the BBC and don’t end up airing for more than a few episodes per year). Instead, I participate actively in websites which specialize in sharing user-generated content above all else: Tumblr at the URL thellamadidit and DeviantArt at the username MusicalMadness are the top two in which I am most active. On both, I create my own drawings and graphics to share with other users without profit; it’s fun, engaging, and quite addictive. While Television is fine and dandy, participating in the online community feels like a more productive way to spend my free time. Therefore, the amount of TV I watch is minimal, but the amount of time I spend on the computer easily fills in all those free hours I have in my schedule.

Within his text, Clay Shirky talks about the concept of amassing a variety of things if there is more to consume – which he aptly entitles “More is Different.” This concept reins true enough; when you have more of something, you will see that a variety begins to flourish throughout the medium.

Example of Typical Sherlock Fan Art
Drawn by Reapersun

On Tumblr, there are Fandoms (fanatic domains) for shows such as Supernatural, Sherlock, Lord of the Rings, and Doctor Who. Within these fandoms, we see a plethora of user-generated content – from moving GIFs of the shows to fan art of the characters, we see more and more variety in the content. A prime example is within the Tumblr fandom of BBC’s Sherlock and the fan art produced for the show. As more users began to come together and collaborate, new genres of the story began to spring up. Things like Punk!Lock, Teen!Lock, Fawn!lock, and some NSFW stuff like BDSM!Lock or Omegaverse.

Fawn!lock by Reapersun

This influx of fans to the show brought in a plethora of new ideas which have inspired stories and artwork of all types alike. BBC’s Sherlock is not the only example of fans gone completely wild with creating these new AUs (Alternative Universe Storylines), but it does offer quite an impressive variety to choose from. In the case of this show, more is definitely very different.

While LOLCats is one of the most notably unproductive wastes of time on the net (in my very humble opinion) it is still more productive than sitting in front of the telly and wasting away watching programmes. With the internet, everything is participatory and interactive in a way that allows us to collaborate with others in order to form new stories, entertainment, and societies which all are bound by common interests. Even the humble LOLCat, with all its spelling errors and needless humour, is something which can be seen as marginally better than television; at least those participating in the site are doing something with their time.


2 thoughts on “Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus: A Brief Overview and Analysis

  1. Great points. I agree with you about the creative community sites such as DeviantArt or any of the various fandoms and how they feed and inspire participants. The barrier between creators and consumers is more permeable on the web, and I think it makes for a much more fertile ground for creativity.

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