17 June 2006

More on Wikipedia and related matters

Arts & Letters Daily has drawn my attention to an article from The Edge "
Digital Maoism: the hazards of the new collectivism" by
Jarod Lanier, which is very critical of Wikipedia. Here is an extract which gives some (but not all) of its flavour:

Reading a Wikipedia entry is like reading the bible closely. There are faint traces of the voices of various anonymous authors and editors, though it is impossible to be sure...At the very least it's a success at revealing what the online people with the most determination and time on their hands are thinking, and that's actually interesting information.

No, the problem is in the way the Wikipedia has come to be regarded and used; how it's been elevated to such importance so quickly. And that is part of the larger pattern of the appeal of a new online collectivism that is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force. This is different from representative democracy, or meritocracy. This idea has had dreadful consequences when thrust upon us from the extreme Right or the extreme Left in various historical periods. The fact that it's now being re-introduced today by prominent technologists and futurists, people who in many cases I know and like, doesn't make it any less dangerous.

In this week's Fin Review Review section (which is back to 12 pages after being cut to 8 for last weekend's "bumper" edition) John Quiggin takes a more positive view, as the title of his piece "When co-operation trumps competition" suggests. This is not available online on the AFR website which is cutting off its nose to spite its face by paring down its free online content. Thankfully John Quiggin practices what he preaches and has published his article on his blog.

I'm more disposed towards Quiggin's views though I have much sympathy for Lanier's attempts to amend the errors in his Wikipedia entry (which as I post does not seem to claim that he is a film director).

Both are well worth reading.

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