Day: December 4, 2009

cast your ‘cognitive surplus’ on the waters…

2009 seems to have been something of a watershed in terms of the rise to prominence of Web 2.0 technology — in popular culture and among evangelical Christians. One key indicator is the friction it’s been generating. (Of course, this could just be a symptom of the enhanced sensitivity Natalie and I have developed as a result of adopting it much more seriously ourselves this year).

As far as I can tell, there are least three different ‘stories’ vying to explain this:

  • It is common to write off a lot of the friction over blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc as merely another inter-generational spat. And there’s a lot going for this account. This comment by J. I. Packer, for example — about the transience and lack of substance of much that flies the Web 2.0 flag — reminds me of stuff I keep hearing from the ‘elder statesmen’ of Australian evangelicalism (in tone as much as content).
  • An alternative account portrays it as a re-run of the conservative v ‘open’/liberal battle familiar from the culture wars in the United States. Hence, although Halden concedes the possible truth of Packer’s accusation in practice, he suggests that the explosion, e.g., in blogging among Christians may actually have more to do in principle with a new take on the old, old search for truth.
  • For my money, however, the notion of ‘cognitive surplus’ makes the most mileage — explaining both the uptake of Web 2.0 technology and the widespread resistance and dismissiveness it meets. Follow the link and see whether you agree that just as the Industrial Revolution was precipitated by the redeployment of surplus labour, what we are currently experiencing is the beginning of the redeployment of surplus brain power from simple consumption (e.g., watching TV news) to collaboration (e.g., contributing to Wikipedia).

I wonder which story you find most compelling.