“Tumblr makes creative expression simple for everybody. Couple that product with a community ethos that values the output more than the creator and Tumblr has achieved something unique and historically significant. But for every Tumblr there is a MySpace and for every Instagram there is a flickr. Perhaps the greatest threat to Tumblr’s business is from the creativity that they have nurtured and manifested.”—Aaron’s Life: Tumblr’s Historical Moment and the Rise of Media Networking
“Two pernicious fallacies embedded in criticism of Twitter—and, by extension, blogs, tumblrs, and GIFs of catbots who kill with laser eyes—are that non-traditional forms of expression can wipe out existing ones, and that these forms are somehow impoverished. The variables unique to the Internet—hyperlinks, GIFs, chat, comments—have enabled new writing voices with their own distinct syntaxes. But we are not dealing with fungible goods—the new forms will never push out older ones because they’re insufficiently similar. You might overdose on unicorn GIFs and go to bed too tired to read “Freedom,” but unicorn GIFs will never replace “Freedom.” + Good Things About Twitter (Sasha Frere Jones, The New Yorker’s “The Political Scene” blog, 22 March 2012)”—No Fungible Goods, Over Here
In a tongue-in-cheek talk, Peter Rojas argues that mainstream media companies (particularly those beloved, SOPA-backing ones) could disappear today and leave humanity plenty of content to happily consume for the rest of our days.
That claim made me curious about a broader question: Is there now more content in existence than can be consumed? (This is the media correlate to the widely-circulated myth that the living world population is greater than the total number of humans who have ever lived.)
How much consumption time is there? To simplify, let’s look at the average US adult, who spends 4.91 hours on weekdays and 6.59 hours on weekend days on “leisure and relaxation,” a category which includes playing sports and watching TV but excludes eating and errands. With an adult population of 206 million, this translates into roughly 40 billion hours of content consumption per year in the US alone.
And how long is all the content? Let’s use Peter’s numbers, which seem sane based on some cursory research, with a few caveats: First, exclude YouTube, because the majority of content there is either not from mainstream outlets, or is a duplication or clip from TV or film, which doesn’t need to be watched twice. Secondly, take Google’s number for books (which, as an aside, should be noted to include many academic, technical, or otherwise totally non-narrative works which should probably be excluded): 130 million. We’ll be generous and say that episodic TV is mean 1 hour long, books take mean 10 hours to consume, and films are mean 1.5 hours long. Combining all episodic television, feature films, and books, regardless of language, there are just over 1.3 billion hours of recorded mass market content produced by humanity.
To consume all the extant mainstream media in the world, we would thus only need one year’s leisure time from 663,446 Americans, or about the whole population of El Paso. To be even less demanding, and only require their time spent consuming TV (and hey, they’re going to get to watch some TV too!) we need 3,392,907 people, or a little less than the population of Los Angeles, to consume all the world’s content in a year.
My iPhone camera gave up the ghost right before heading to Austin, so in lieu of photos of People from the Internet Drinking Beer In Converted Parking Lots, I give you a brief history of SXSW so far in mobile Google terms:
“I think it’s an ugly term when applied to information. When you talk about consuming information you are talking about information as a commodity, rather than information as the substance of our thoughts and our communications with other people. To talk about consuming it, I think you lose a deeper sense of information as a carrier of meaning and emotion – the matter of intimate intellectual and social exchange between human beings. It becomes more of a product, a good, a commodity.
From the interview: Nicholas Carr on the Impact of the Information Age”—W. W. Norton: Why do you think “consumed” is an ugly term?