When one is surveying a new cultural effusion like Wikipedia or Ushahidi or lolcats, answering the question Where do people find the time? is surprisingly easy. We have always found the time to do things that interest us, specifically because they interest us, a resource fought for in the struggle to create the forty-hour workweek. Amid the late-nineteenth-century protests for better working conditions, one popular workers’ chant was “Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, eight hours for what we will!” For more than a century now, the explicit and specific availability of unstructured time has been part of the bargain of industrialization. Over the last fifty years, however, we’ve spent the largest chunk of that hard-won time on a single activity, a behavior so universal we’ve forgotten that our free time has always been ours to do with as we like.
I recommend the reading of Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers Into Collaborators because of the change in perspective it may induce. The many cases the author presents to illustrate his conclusions are convincing, to the point of engaging the reader in his own excursions through personal experiences, re-reading them. And why not? That’s certainly something fit for a world in permanent change. So, no more “coach potato” time!