"We Think": Mass Innovation vs. Mass Consumption?

Posted in The Gnovis Blog

Charles Leadbeater, a UK-based spokesman of collective creativity and the author of his latest book, "We Think," has some interesting and somewhat controversial ideas about the Internet becoming a "mass innovation."

In the era of Web 2.0, the cultivation of web communities that hype social networking and collaboration, (i.e. YouTube and MySpace) now rely entirely on users to generate their content.

Thanks to the Internet, millions of people can now have their say…post a blog comment, create a YouTube video, participate in an online chat group. Yet, what are the societial effects to sharing our ideas, freely, openly and to all? Will this result in utter massive confusion, or can we collaborate together and come up with some very innovative ideas? ((Three cheers for user-generated media!))

As Leadbeater explains:

Society is based not on mass consumption now but on
mass, innovative participation – as is clear in phenomena from
Wikipedia, Youtube and Craigslist to new forms of scientific research
and political campaigning. This new mode of ‘We-think’ is reshaping the
way we work, play and communicate.

“We-think” is about what the rise of these phenomena
(not all to do with the internet) means for the way we organise
ourselves – not just in digital businesses but in schools and
hospitals, cities and mainstream corporations. For the point of the
industrial era economy was mass production for mass consumption, the
formula created by Henry Ford; but these new forms of mass, creative
collaboration announce the arrival of a new kind of society, in which
people want to be players, not spectators.

This is a huge cultural shift, for in this new economy
people want not services and goods, delivered to them, but tools so
they can take part.

In “We-think” Charles Leadbeater analyses not only
these changes, but how they will affect us and how we can make the most
of them.

Yet, critics such as Andrew Keen, author of the "Cult of the Amateur" might ask, is the Internet and ‘user-generated’ content killing our culture? Keen argues that it’s not necessarily the Internet, but the way in which we "amateurs" use these publishing tools can result in the undermining of "credible information and a viable media." As a result, this unregulated, free-for-all can be harmful, rather than helpful…

The debate is on…

Check out this animated video below further exploring some of Leadbeater’s ideas: