Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cognitive Surplus and the Appreciators

This month's Wired Magazine has an article which is extremely relevant to our cause. Wired contributing editor, Daniel Pink, author of Drive, goes head to head with Clay Shirky, author of Cognitive Surplus, about the themes common between their respective works. Basically, Drive points out that traditional "carrot or stick" methods of reward and punishment are not the only motivators—in fact, they're not even the best.

Pink and Shirky agree that people are more motivated by internal drives, in a word their "interests." This is not limited to monetary gains, as a superficial capitalistic definition would suggest, but includes rewards that are priceless. It is the joy of the journey, as it were, that motivates much "extracurricular" activities such as the writing of fan fiction and the editing of Wikipedia. Indeed, the increasing number of Wikis ( devoted to fan-created content about any number of stories and products should serve as an indication that fan fiction and open-source encyclopedias are merging already.

Shirky's book argues that, while his generation spent much of its free time sitting in front of the television, consuming time, many members of the younger generations are using their spare time online to create things—rather than to just waste time. This is what he calls "cognitive surplus"—free thought that is not being put to use by a job, but is nonetheless being put to use for productive, rather than consumptive means.

This fits with what FITmedia is intending to do. Though they rail against television media in its current form, it is important to remember that we seek to change the purpose of the medium, thus fitting it to a more productive use. In order to do this, we must encourage and employ the cognitive surplus of fans of the medium.

This is the fourth (and most populated) lobe of the FITmedia model. Überfans make up a group I have off-and-on referred to as the Appreciators. I've spent a lot of time describing the other three, which likewise have names (Orchestrators, Promoters, and Developers), but have not had a platform to discuss the active role of the fans until now.

There is no better way to learn the truth about fiction, which is the very truth of human nature, I believe, than to go directly to the fans for help creating the stories they—not advertisers—want to see put into existence. The open-source community (in which I include and, among a throng of freeware programmers) creates because it is the right thing to do. They create because the world needs what they can give, and the world is a better place because of it.

When the world is a better place, opportunities flourish, freelance gigs abound, and new jobs are created. The new age we find ourselves in is one of giving before getting. If we improve ourselves, we'll improve the world. If we improve the world, everything will be just gravy.

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