The Culture of the Amateur

If you are running particularly long experiments like me, or are looking for something to watch for 45 minutes, then I suggest this video on youtube: a documentary about truth and wikipedia. It features interviews with big pro- and anti- web 2.0 names, and discusses the extent to which sites like wikipedia encourage truth, freedom, and democracy (or mob-rule, lies, and social fragmentation).

4 Responses to “The Culture of the Amateur”

  1. mike says:

    Thanks for the link – some persuasive arguments on both sides. I felt the comment about “overwriting other people’s truth” was particularly interesting, because it revealed a second dimension of the issue that perhaps wasn’t fully explored: if the first dimension is monologue/dialogue, the second dimension is consensus/dialectic. Britannica and Wikipedia are at opposite poles of the first axis, but they both seem to occupy the consensus pole of the second axis: that is, they agree that a single satisfactory account of reality can exist, but disagree about who should write it.

    Wikipedia’s editing process is superficially dialectical, but its ultimate goal is the “neutral point of view” – the editing function is secondary to the primary function of presenting the consensus viewpoint, so the discussion pages are hidden behind the articles.

    But the internet does contain genuinely dialectical media – newsgroups, mailing lists, forums. Perhaps, in abandoning any pretense of consensus or neutrality, they present a more radical alternative than Wikipedia to the world of credentials, authorities and experts?

  2. Neal Lathia says:

    Yes, I agree.. wikipedia is not fully on the “dialogue” end of the spectrum, since a dialogue would entail being able to see/hear both sides of the argument. Even when they say in the movie that users should follow the links at the end of wikipedia articles (to read more about the subject from “reputable” sources), all they are asking the reader to do is further explore the various points of view relating to the subject: it seems that the “real” truth is knowing all sides, not just the most recent.

    I tend to side with the hippies and say that wikipedia is an excellent project and resource, but maybe they can do better by changing the way that information is visualised- show the argument, not only the most recent wiki page version.

  3. mike says:

    An interesting article in last week’s Economist talks about Jimmy Wales’ Objectivist philosophy and how that might have influenced Wikipedia’s pursuit of consensus rather than dialectic:

    http://www.economist.com/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=11484062

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