The electricity of participation nudges ordinary folks to invest huge hunks of energy and time into making free encyclopedias, creating public tutorials for changing a flat tire, or cataloging the votes in the Senate. More and more of the Web runs in this mode. One study found that only 40 percent of the Web is commercial. The rest runs on duty or passion.
Coming out of the industrial age, when mass-produced goods outclassed anything you could make yourself, this sudden tilt toward consumer involvement is a complete Lazarus move: “We thought that died long ago.” The deep enthusiasm for making things, for interacting more deeply than just choosing options, is the great force not reckoned 10 years ago. This impulse for participation has upended the economy and is steadily turning the sphere of social networking – smart mobs, hive minds, and collaborative action – into the main event.
I have a question for you: what happens when the quantity of content produced is greater than we can consume? What happens when it’s 10x? 100x? What then? It’s nearly there already. Think of all the content you create in a day, passively as well as actively. Five hundred channels seems conservative now, even quaint. How about five billion channels?