I read Clay Shirky’s piece on cognitive surplus about a month ago and it clicked instantly. Only the other day did I manage to watch the accompanying talk (16 minutes and well worth it). Here’s the summary: gin was the engine of the Industrial Revolution, enabling a generation to get tanked and thereby deal with the transition from rural to urban society; the analog for the 20th Century is the sitcom; we watch TV for billions of hours each year because we have a grandiose cognitive surplus and need to do something with it; Internet apps, e.g. web 2.0 is a mocked but more productive outlet for this cognitive bias.

When I watched the talk I started thinking a lot more about the substance of the talk, but I also had to give a thought to TV as I know it. Television is all but dominated now by reality shows: dog trainers and LA ne’er-do-wells, island competitors and lovestruck competitors. It’s enough to make CHiPs look like small screen genius (maybe it was).

I’d love to sit down with the data and play with it, but I don’t have it right now, and frankly I don’t feel like digging for it at the moment. Maybe later. But is it coincidental that the reality phenomenon coincided with an increase in Internet participation? Is it a coincidence that as reality television hit it’s tipping point that “art TV” started to gain traction? Shows like the Sopranos (never seen it, going on third party adjudication), The Wire, Mad Men, shows written, casted, shot, edited - everything - done with the touch of a feature film. There appears a television bifurcation.

The mainstream acceptance of Internet applications and communities shattered TV’s median (sitcoms), which allows networks to get away with putting wash ups on TV and simultaneously partitions the market for ambitious producers.

This is more statement than argument. Comments welcome.