The Big Shuffle

futurelab default header

by: Iqbal Mohammed

Seth Godin worries here about what the inflation of content means for its creators –  in a world where people are happy to let a shuffle algorithm decide what they are going to read/listen/experience next.

The only hope he holds out is that winning an attention-lottery – like being #1 on Digg for eg. – will earn subscriptions via RSS or email. Else we’ll forever be condemned to the whims of the Big Shuffle.

I do share Seth’s worries but I also am optimistic that things won’t turn out as bad. Surely when man first practised agriculture and settled down in villages and cities, his first worry was the manifold increase in the number of people who he came in touch with. How would he remember all their names, how would he get to know all of them or worse still, how would he ensure all of them get to know him?

A particularly apt definition of friends I read somewhere was ‘accidents of geography.’  The anxiety of being amidst more people than there are fingers on one’s hand has now passed to a comfort with not having to know all the people in the universe. And also a comfort in the natural shuffle mode with which one discovers, keeps and loses friends.

I am sure when our anxiety over the explosion of choice passes, we’ll be able to define a geography (or a landscape) of this content. We’ll understand that we can only maximise our chances of listening to the best music out there and reading the most interesting stuff. But we’ll also know that we’ll never get anywhere close to most of it. Just like I understand there are a million interesting people out there whom I’ll never befriend.

And as creators of content, we can only be thankful that the Big Shuffle still offers all of us – without discrimination – a chance to be widely read or heard. And as recently as a few decades ago, even the slightest possibility of an ordinary person’s word being widely heard would have been hailed as a giant step forward for mankind.

As an individual I do find the possibility of being left out by the Big Shuffle cruel. As a human being, I hail the opportunity it holds for anyone who’s waiting to be heard.

Original Post: