At the dawn of the industrial revolution, London was awash in gin. Getting drunk was a collective (and very public) way of spending free time. After the 1950s, TV was the new ‘gin’ for the masses in many countries. Bored with all that extra time? Turn on I Love Lucy. Buy the stuff hawked on the advertisements. It became a way of life. A free-time life that most people continue to accept without much thought.
As Wikipedia suggests, some people have capped the gin bottle, turned off their TV, rolled up their sleeves, and contributed their two cents worth.
It is about our overwhelming desire to consume, to be judged by what we consume, to draw our identity from consumption. These are the ideas that Clay Shirky has been exploring.
Over at The Edge, I came across Clay Shirky’s thoughtful talk titled GIN, TELEVISION, AND COGNITIVE SURPLUS “This is something that people in the media world don't understand. Media in the 20th century was run as a single race—consumption. How much can we produce? How much can you consume? Can we produce more and you'll consume more? And the answer to that question has generally been yes. But media is actually a triathlon, it 's three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share.”
Clay Shirky also wrote: Here Comes Everybody
I can highly recommend the book.