Preface: If introductory economics bored you to tears, I can assure you I've done my best to take the dryness out of the subject. I myself was never drawn to harsh economic subjects like econometrics. Instead I soaked up behavioural and information economics. Both of which are very relevant to online media and the change in the way we now consume news.
It may not come as much of a surprise to you, but I am somewhat of a geek. I studied economics for five years and worked as an economist for the QLD Treasury once I graduated. Becoming a co-founder of a wiki has not really helped my cause, although I hope the fashion side of that has at least redeemed me a little.
One of the most fascinating things with economics is its ability to explain the way people behave. Why do they contribute to one forum and not the other? Why do people tweet? Where did all the wikipideans come from and why do they while their hours away editing pages?
After coming across Clay Shirky's "Cognitive Surplus", it jogged my memory about intrinsic motivators and the idea that one is not enticed by external factors such as money or rewards. Instead people are far more motivated to complete tasks due to the warm and fuzzies they feel once they are done. Curiouser and curiouser, if a person were offered an extrinsic reward for something that satisfies them nonetheless, they are far more likely not to complete the task.
Clay talks about a person's cognitive surplus, basically this is a fancy way for saying, one's spare time. He explains that with the rise of consumerism in the 1920s and the subsequent adoption of television, people's cognitive surpluses were once spent mostly on staring at the black box.
With the rise in online media, twitter, facebook et al, cognitive surplus has now evolved into participatory surplus. People now have choices, while TV is a one way street, the internet can be akin to getting lost in New York. It's a busy hub, an avalanche of information is thrown at us everyday. People are not only consuming this information, but they are now sharing it, discussing it and adding it to wikis. There is no shortage of ways in which you can disperse of information.
Due to the sheer volume of information that we are exposed to online, we are seeing a shift from professionalism to mass amateurization. A group of people learn bite size pieces and add them to the the puzzle. The social networks that are now popping up, have brought down the barriers to entry, allowing everyone to share and produce a higher aggregate value. This slow pull away from consumerism is changing society and will in the long term create a higher production value.
Technology is causing a fundamental shift in society and dissolving the dichotomy between professionals and amateurs. Anyone who is interested or would like to learn something new regardless of their education or skill level can join in on the conversation. That's what's so fantastic about technology and online media, it endorses the "more the merrier" notion.
This is exactly why I created Wikifashion, with so many barriers to the industry, fashion is in a sense the last of the impenetrable fortresses. Almost impossible to peek inside, one has to "pay their dues" before being invited to the party. I am hoping to bring down the walls so that those who simply like to flick through Vogue once a month can edit alongside those who write for Elle magazine. Anyone is welcome and we certainly believe the "more the merrier".