Book-Text-Read-Zines · Digital Media · Education · Social/Politics

Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia (History and Foundations of Information Science)

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is built by a community–a community of Wikipedians who are expected to “assume good faith” when interacting with one another. In Good Faith Collaboration, Joseph Reagle examines this unique collaborative culture.

Wikipedia, says Reagle, is not the first effort to create a freely shared, universal encyclopedia; its early twentieth-century ancestors include Paul Otlet’s Universal Repository and H. G. Wells’s proposal for a World Brain. Both these projects, like Wikipedia, were fuelled by new technology–which at the time included index cards and microfilm. What distinguishes Wikipedia from these and other more recent ventures is Wikipedia’s good-faith collaborative culture, as seen not only in the writing and editing of articles but also in their discussion pages and edit histories. Keeping an open perspective on both knowledge claims and other contributors, Reagle argues, creates an extraordinary collaborative potential.

Wikipedia’s style of collaborative production has been imitated, analyzed, and satirized. Despite the social unease over its implications for individual autonomy, institutional authority, and the character (and quality) of cultural products, Wikipedia’s good-faith collaborative culture has brought us closer than ever to a realization of the century-old pursuit of a universal encyclopedia.

Foreword by Lawrence Lessig
Publisher MIT Press, 2010
History and Foundation of Information Science Series
ISBN 0262014475, 9780262014472
244 pages

Text via MITPress

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Blog-Sites · Digital Media · Technology

Thoughts on Wikipedia’s Future

“Very few people are being promoted into the humble, hard-working positions which make Wikipedia work.”
– Robinson Meyer via The Atlantic

Earlier this month Wikipedia held its annual summit in Washington, DC. Afterwards, The Atlantic summarized the event in an article outlining how Wikipedia is slowly running out of admins to edit the site’s content. A trend is emerging. Fewer people are applying, and the current editors are slowly leaving. The long-term future has a flicker of uncertainty. To spark some discussion, I surveyed four artists and writers about the decline. We can all speculate what effects a decline in editor participation will have on Wikipedia as a global knowledge-base, but what are the implications for artists who use it as a tool for research and making work?

Excerpt from an article written by Jason Huff, Rhizome. Continue HERE

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Social/Politics

What We’ve Lost With the Demise of Print Encyclopedias

As the paperless future approaches, certain sorts of publications have inevitably moved into the all-digital realm faster than others. Most of us still prefer paper when it comes to beach novels, for instance, or the cherished volumes of our personal libraries. At the other extreme, scientific journals effectively went all-digital years ago, and thanks to GPS, maps and road atlases are quickly following. Last week saw another milestone: the symbolic funeral of paper encyclopedias, with the inevitable announcement that the Encyclopedia Britannica is ceasing print publication.

Encyclopedias, along with other reference works, would seem particularly obvious candidates for digitization. Paper encyclopedias are large, heavy, and expensive ($1,395 for the final print edition of Britannica). They are nowhere near as easily and thoroughly searchable as their digital counterparts. They cannot be easily updated, still less constantly updated. And they are far more limited in size. The 2002 Britannica contained 65,000 articles and 44 million words. Wikipedia currently contains close to four million articles and over two billion words (this information comes, of course, from Wikipedia).

Excerpt from an article written by David A. Bell at The New Republic. Continue HERE

Human-ities · Technology · Theory

If I ruled the world: Steven Pinker

Steve Pinker: My first edict as global overlord would be to impose the following rule on pundits: No one may bemoan a decay, decline, or degeneration without providing (1) a measure of the way the world is today; (2) a measure of the way the world was at some point in the past; (3) a demonstration that (1) is worse than (2).

This decree would, first of all, eliminate tedious jeremiads about the decline of the language. The genre has been around for centuries, and if the doomsayers were correct we would now be grunting like Tarzan. But not only do we see vast amounts of clear and competent prose in everyday outlets like Wikipedia and Amazon reviews, but a gusher of superb writing appearing daily, as anyone who has lost a morning to sites like The Browser and Arts and Letters Daily can attest.

Language mavens commonly confuse their own peeves with a worsening of the language. A century ago editors issued fatwas against barbarous innovations such as “standpoint,” “bogus,” “to run a business,” and “to quit smoking.” Decades ago they fulminated against “six people” (as opposed to persons), “fix” (for repair), and the verbs “to contact” and “to finalize.” Today this linguistic contraband is unexceptionable, if not indispensable. Also vilified is the seepage of new technological jargon into the language (leverage, incentivise, synergy). Yet old technological jargon (proportional, placebo, false positive, trade-off) has made it easier for everyone to think about abstract concepts, and may even have contributed to the Flynn effect, the relentless increase in IQ scores during the 20th century.

And speaking of technology, today’s Luddites have a short memory. Parents who lament the iPods and mobile phones soldered onto the ears of teenagers forget that their own parents made the same complaint about them and their bedroom telephones and transistor radios. The abbreviated prose in tweets and instant messages is no more likely to corrupt the language or shorten attention spans than the telegrams, radio ads, and advertising catchphrases of yesteryear. Email can seem like a curse, but who would go back to stamps, phone booths, carbon paper, and piles of phone messages? And now that dinner companions can fact-check any assertion on an iPhone, we are coming to realize how many of our everyday beliefs are false—a valuable lesson in the fallibility of memory.

But nowhere is the confusion of a data point with a trend more pernicious than in our understanding of violence. A terrorist bomb explodes, a sniper runs amok, an errant drone kills an innocent, and commentators ask “What is the world coming to?” Yet they seldom ask, “How bad was the world in the past?” Continue HERE