I participate, therefore I am

Life in a Day, produced by Ridley Scott, calles itself the first film created by Youtube users.

On 23 June 2003, the Internet attended the birth of what was then considered a revolution in the field of virtual communication:Second Life. It was going to be the big social network, all users who claimed to be trendy created a profile. The idea was good: a virtual world that functioned as the real world, where bands like U2 acted exclusively in it, where one could buy land and build houses, create political campaigns and ads where created and launched for the occasion.

Today, in 2010, Second Life has 8 million users but barely 50,000 visitors form the community. According to Wired magazine, 85% of profiles created in Second Life were abandoned by their own users in less than a year. The reason? There was nothing to do, the article said. And it was true: the avatar was only able to walk through limited spaces, and only those who knew something about programming were able to get it out and create an object to sell. Silence was absolute, and the interface at that time still retained the vectorial appearance of the first videogames, with figures with hard angles.

Second Life still exists and some people predict its revival in a not too distant future. However, it now has two major competitors: Facebook, which has already reached 500 million users, and Twitter, where the figures are not public but are estimated to be around 18 million accounts in the U.S. alone (about a quarter of it in Spain). What is its secret? Participation.

To paraphrase Descartes, the American researcher John Seely Brown said: “We participate, therefore we are.” In 2006, the “Person of the Year,” according to Time magazine, was the user. And YouTube, founded in 2005, and whose motto “broadcast yourself”, plays and uploeads around 2 billion videos every day. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube share the same spirit: the user has the leading role, decides what information wants to disseminate and receive. And, above all, it is the user who distributes this information, whether it is news, video or comment. The user has multiple options to draw attention, to make him or herself be heard, In short: to have the 15 minutes of fame that Warhol predicted. And this is what the user wants in a social network: to participate.

According to an interesting experiment conducted by neuroeconomist Paul Zak, social networks affect the brain just as being in love does. The interaction with other users also releases oxytocin, the so-called “hormone of love”. In the end, to discover that the home video in which your son bites your other son’s finger has been viewed 200 million times must cause enormous pride. Because the thing is not to build avatars, fictional characters who act on our behalf and walk around virtual spaces, but that us, with our name, are the stars of the show.

Much has been said about the danger of social networks, particularly the fear that this form of communication will replace face to face communication. Maybe for some people it is the case and they confine themselves into the acto of launching messages to the network and waiting for a response; however, it is also true that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms amplify communication. They allow several speakers, they are developed in different languages, including visual (photos and videos) and written (both personal and professional blogs, which are another way of participation). Information support jumps from one to another, are published in a microblog, reappears as video, and are reinterpreted and change of meaning. As an example, the dozens of videos based on an excerpt of the film “Der Untergang”. It is something that can be shaped.

Kosmopolis could not be oblivious to this reality and launched in April 2010 social networks in order to disseminate information related to amplify the festival and its literary content, including other sites, news, articles and videos. The festival website has added a Facebook page and a Twitter account, and in order to develop BookCamp themes, one of the central activities of the literary day, it has created a wiki. Soon other platforms will be opened: the intention is to amplify content to the maximum level and engage the Kosmopolis audience.

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I participate, therefore I am