7 June 2006

Jaron Lanier's got a problem

His Edge essay is just really unsatisfying in both content and expectation. Content was skimmed from every anti-Wikipedia treatise that's been around for years: fear of lowest-common-denominator, accusation of narrow scope (doing only what it does best), and fanaticism (among others). Expectation is that such a "visionary" should have some greater insight into the collective web. And he, simply, doesn't.

This P2P Foundation essay gets deep into phenomenology and ontology, but I don't think we need to get too far into the ether to set the foundations for the difference between collectivism and socially constructed networks (Web 2.0). The editors of Wikipedia are not the collective, they are the part of the collective that self-select to edit. This is hardly communist. The system doesn't fail because a significant portion of the population refuses to contribute: it's best that they don't contribute to (probably) 90% of what's there. I won't touch the articles on Roman history and I sure as hell shouldn't be touching them. Those that care to edit them, will.

And, just as critical mass has threatened to muddy Wikipedia with ideological battles, it also provides greater attention to attract those who really love their subject. Editors who are knowledgeable will take ownership and nurse the arguments into qualified disputes within the text. Not all will be 100% successful, but neither is any static text 100% successful.

The greatest fear that people have, possibly, is that Wikipedia shows text for what it really is: living. We're proud of science when it adapts to change, and proud of laws when they are corrected and clarified by application: we should be as proud of our text that can correct itself and reveal that history of correction.

(Digression: Lanier had also claimed that much of the information is available elsewhere. Offline yes, but it's very doubtful that this is available online. And even when it is, it's not as organized. I spent quite a while trolling through discographies and recital programs to piece together a skeletal list of Lyadov's compositions. I don't have access to the Grove dictionary, so I otherwise don't have his catalog on hand. Now I and others do.)

[ posted by sstrader on 7 June 2006 at 12:06:28 AM in Culture & Society ]