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Walter Watts
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virus: Fame is an extreme imbalance between inbound and outbound attention
« on: 2004-08-24 13:38:03 »
Reply with quote

WW's note: The chart that goes with this article is not available online
that I can find. It's very eye-opening. Check it out in the hard copy of
Wired next time you're at the bookstore.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Wired Magazine – August 2004

Why Oprah Will Never Talk to You. Ever.
Interacting with everone is, ahem, small-time.
By Clay Shirky

We’ve long wanted to believe that the Web is the anti-TV. It’s built
from the bottom up, puts power in the hands of the individual, and, most
importantly, is interactive, whereas TV is not. Television is a perfect
embodiment of the one-way nature of fame. You can see Oprah, yet Oprah
can’t see you.

Contrast the television with the weblog—simple personal publishing with
a conversational feel. Famous people, from William Gibson and Anna
Kournikova to David Hasselhoff and Beck, have tried their hand at
blogging. In theory, this gave them a chance to interact directly with
their audiences. So if Oprah had a weblog, she could talk to you and you
could talk to her.

What a profound and wonderful shift in the nature of media! But it isn’t
true. Even if Oprah was an avid blogger, she wouldn’t be interacting
with you. This has nothing to do with Oprah; she couldn’t interact with
her audience if she wanted to—she’s famous, and fame is neither an
attitude nor a technological artifact. It’s a topology, a landscape of
interaction with a center and an edge. Celebrities are at the center.

Fame is an extreme imbalance between inbound and outbound attention. Two
things are required to create this inequity: scale and reciprocity. To
be famous, you need to receive a minimal amount of attention from an
audience of at least thousands. And famous people are unable to
acknowledge all the attention they get.

Television is the prime example. Oprah’s audience tops 22 million, and
the outbound-only nature of TV makes reciprocal attention impossible. If
you believed the rhetoric, the only thing keeping us from having a
relationship with Oprah was technical limitations—she could broadcast to
us, but we couldn’t broadcast back.

After two decades of the Web and a decade of weblogs, we know that
removing technical limits to interactivity has exposed other limits. The
problem isn’t the wiring of the network but the wiring of the brain. The
Web makes it possible for anyone to communicate with anyone else, but it
doesn’t make it practical. Everyone has a limited amount of time. You
can read only so many books or blogs, trade email with only so many
people. At some point even a two-way medium like the Web reverts to the
broadcast paradigm.

Back when the blog world was a village (prior to 2002, say), there
really was a loose-jointed conversation in which just about anyone could
participate. But the ease of interaction was deceptive. It looked innate
yet was merely an artifact of size. Egalitarianism works only in small
systems. A world of a million bloggers is different from a world of a
thousand bloggers, in much the same way that cities are just not large
villages. Once things went urban—with millions of bloggers and readers—a
small set of bloggers was tipped into the one-way topology of fame.

For example, Glenn Reynolds, a homegrown blog hero, reports that his
site, Instapundit. com, attracts more than 1 million unique viewers a
month. And while that number is no competition for Oprah, it does sit
comfortably in the circulation range of the top 20 daily US newspapers.
An audience of this size defeats interactivity: If Reynolds spent a
month having minute-long conversations with just 10,000 of his readers
(less than 1 percent of his total audience), it would take him more than
40 hours a week for that entire month. And the problem gets worse as the
numbers grow. The odds of one of Oprah’s fans reaching her is lest than
1 in 200,000.

Being famous means being forced into a width-depth trade-off. Either
spend less time with everyone, or enjoy deeper interactions with just a
few people. And at the extremes, you must limit both the number and the
depth of interactions. It’s no accident that when you encounter famous
people, they come off as cliquish or shallow. The only real surprise is
that the technological possibility of replying can’t overcome the human
limits on attention. For media critics who assume The Man is keeping the
masses down, this is bad news. In the blog world, there is no Man, only
masses; yet the accumulated weight of attention has re-created the
imbalances associated with the traditional media. Several high-traffic
weblogs are trying out ways to address this imbalance. Reynolds, for
instance, turns on comments selectively, to let users annotate
particular Instapundit posts. Boing Boing attaches a list of external
comments to every post, compiled by Technorati, to encourage
reader-to-reader chats. Metafilter distinguishes members from readers;
members can participate in discussion, while readers (much larger group)
cannot. Slashdot grants those with a track record of constructive
comments a louder voice.

But these (and future) responses are an acclimation to fame, not a
reversal of it. The famous are different from you and me, and technology
can’t change that. Fame is an inevitable byproduct of large social
systems, and as those systems get larger, the imbalance of fame becomes
more pronounced, not less.
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Walter Watts
Tulsa Network Solutions, Inc.


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Re:virus: Fame is an extreme imbalance between inbound and outbound attention
« Reply #1 on: 2004-08-30 13:19:53 »
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wow...oprah made it to wired mag. hmm..where is magic jim...
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Walter Watts
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Re:virus: Fame is an extreme imbalance between inbound and outbound attention
« Reply #2 on: 2008-01-05 10:59:42 »
Reply with quote


Quote from: Walter Watts on 2004-08-24 13:38:03   
WW's note: The chart that goes with this article is not available online
that I can find. It's very eye-opening. Check it out in the hard copy of
Wired next time you're at the bookstore.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Addendum 1/5/08--Walter

I found some more writings from this guy (Clay Shirky)
Some of you might find him interesting. I sure did.                      <<<<--------------------------------------------------------------------

http://shirky.com/writings/powerlaw_weblog.html
http://www.shirky.com/
[this one's about a year old concerning SL]
http://valleywag.com/tech/second-life/a-story-too-good-to-check-221252.php

and this one is a must read for all you social engineers:
***[A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy]***A+PLUS
http://www.shirky.com/writings/group_enemy.html
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Wired Magazine – August 2004

Why Oprah Will Never Talk to You. Ever.
Interacting with everone is, ahem, small-time.
By Clay Shirky

We’ve long wanted to believe that the Web is the anti-TV. It’s built
from the bottom up, puts power in the hands of the individual, and, most
importantly, is interactive, whereas TV is not. Television is a perfect
embodiment of the one-way nature of fame. You can see Oprah, yet Oprah
can’t see you.

Contrast the television with the weblog—simple personal publishing with
a conversational feel. Famous people, from William Gibson and Anna
Kournikova to David Hasselhoff and Beck, have tried their hand at
blogging. In theory, this gave them a chance to interact directly with
their audiences. So if Oprah had a weblog, she could talk to you and you
could talk to her.

What a profound and wonderful shift in the nature of media! But it isn’t
true. Even if Oprah was an avid blogger, she wouldn’t be interacting
with you. This has nothing to do with Oprah; she couldn’t interact with
her audience if she wanted to—she’s famous, and fame is neither an
attitude nor a technological artifact. It’s a topology, a landscape of
interaction with a center and an edge. Celebrities are at the center.

Fame is an extreme imbalance between inbound and outbound attention. Two
things are required to create this inequity: scale and reciprocity. To
be famous, you need to receive a minimal amount of attention from an
audience of at least thousands. And famous people are unable to
acknowledge all the attention they get.

Television is the prime example. Oprah’s audience tops 22 million, and
the outbound-only nature of TV makes reciprocal attention impossible. If
you believed the rhetoric, the only thing keeping us from having a
relationship with Oprah was technical limitations—she could broadcast to
us, but we couldn’t broadcast back.

After two decades of the Web and a decade of weblogs, we know that
removing technical limits to interactivity has exposed other limits. The
problem isn’t the wiring of the network but the wiring of the brain. The
Web makes it possible for anyone to communicate with anyone else, but it
doesn’t make it practical. Everyone has a limited amount of time. You
can read only so many books or blogs, trade email with only so many
people. At some point even a two-way medium like the Web reverts to the
broadcast paradigm.

Back when the blog world was a village (prior to 2002, say), there
really was a loose-jointed conversation in which just about anyone could
participate. But the ease of interaction was deceptive. It looked innate
yet was merely an artifact of size. Egalitarianism works only in small
systems. A world of a million bloggers is different from a world of a
thousand bloggers, in much the same way that cities are just not large
villages. Once things went urban—with millions of bloggers and readers—a
small set of bloggers was tipped into the one-way topology of fame.

For example, Glenn Reynolds, a homegrown blog hero, reports that his
site, Instapundit. com, attracts more than 1 million unique viewers a
month. And while that number is no competition for Oprah, it does sit
comfortably in the circulation range of the top 20 daily US newspapers.
An audience of this size defeats interactivity: If Reynolds spent a
month having minute-long conversations with just 10,000 of his readers
(less than 1 percent of his total audience), it would take him more than
40 hours a week for that entire month. And the problem gets worse as the
numbers grow. The odds of one of Oprah’s fans reaching her is lest than
1 in 200,000.

Being famous means being forced into a width-depth trade-off. Either
spend less time with everyone, or enjoy deeper interactions with just a
few people. And at the extremes, you must limit both the number and the
depth of interactions. It’s no accident that when you encounter famous
people, they come off as cliquish or shallow. The only real surprise is
that the technological possibility of replying can’t overcome the human
limits on attention. For media critics who assume The Man is keeping the
masses down, this is bad news. In the blog world, there is no Man, only
masses; yet the accumulated weight of attention has re-created the
imbalances associated with the traditional media. Several high-traffic
weblogs are trying out ways to address this imbalance. Reynolds, for
instance, turns on comments selectively, to let users annotate
particular Instapundit posts. Boing Boing attaches a list of external
comments to every post, compiled by Technorati, to encourage
reader-to-reader chats. Metafilter distinguishes members from readers;
members can participate in discussion, while readers (much larger group)
cannot. Slashdot grants those with a track record of constructive
comments a louder voice.

But these (and future) responses are an acclimation to fame, not a
reversal of it. The famous are different from you and me, and technology
can’t change that. Fame is an inevitable byproduct of large social
systems, and as those systems get larger, the imbalance of fame becomes
more pronounced, not less.
---
To unsubscribe from the Virus list go to <http://www.lucifer.com/cgi-bin/virus-l>


« Last Edit: 2008-01-05 19:12:08 by Walter Watts » Report to moderator   Logged

Walter Watts
Tulsa Network Solutions, Inc.


No one gets to see the Wizard! Not nobody! Not no how!
Pages: [1] Reply Notify of replies Send the topic Print 
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