Has it ever occurred to you to wonder why people spend so much time contributing to sites and memes on the net such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter, LOLCats, or any of the myriad communities discussed in the “Motive” section of the book? And why they do so for “free?” If not, do Shirky’s theories of opportunity make sense or not? What is the importance of the distinction between the question “Why do they do all that on YouTube” and the question “Why do they do all that on YouTube for free?” Do you agree or disagree with Shirky’s claims about the real difference between generations (such as Generation X and Y), and why?
As I’ve stated in previous posts, being in a fandom or participating in memes makes a person feels included in a group, productive with their time, and (in many cases) happy with the effort they exert to impress others with their work. Regardless of whether or not the creator is being paid monetarily, they are paid with a wealth of feedback, viewers, and appreciation for their work. (On this point, I would like to note that not everyone has success with posting their work online, and many receive negative feedback. However, they’re still being recognized – and sometimes recognition is worth more to a person than any dollar amount capitalism may place on it.)
Shirky argues that the real difference between generations is “less because people differ [and more] because opportunities do.” (page 121). It is easy to see how opportunity can fluctuate through the years; as Shirky points out, the economy is a great factor in creating and destroying opportunity. With Generation X and the 1987 market crash (ensuing recession included), opportunity was seen plummeting deep into the ground. As the markets transformed, opportunity grew and so did participant motivation. However, I think that – in this sense – our Generation Y is quite similar to Generation X. There isn’t a copious amount of opportunity to be found, so one can’t help but to be disengaged from typical means of participating in the economic culture of our society. Therefore, plenty of time is spent producing content for the web in the hopes of creating opportunity for oneself. In this way, we are different from generation X, but only because the means of achieving such goals are far easier to access than in days past.