The Future of Knowledge?

I went to the Future of the Internet talk at the Oxford Internet Institute (webcast here) where Larry Sanger (Citizendium and Wikipedia) and Andrew Keen debated the where the Internet might go and how knowledge would develop.

Neither,  I think, really got into the argument but rather skirted the issues. Sanger’s argument for a more editorially driven Wikipedia, which is what he has created at Citizendium, was interesting. He is very much for the self selecting model but feels that it needs a guiding hand every so often by an elite.

Keen, on the other hand, attacked the ideals of collaboration, community and conversation. We do over use this as developers and at some point they will be subject to redefinition and re thought. I can see Keen’s point in the (ab)use of anonymity by a small minority of people on boards, fora, Wikis but despite his attacks, he offered no coherent view or redefinition of the 3 c’s noted above. Anonymity is useful but, like everything else, is open to abuse.

He’s correct in the sense that they are used too loosely to describe a service or website. Here’s the rub. I think that we are still at the beginning of the process. Services such as Wikipedia are demonstrating how the Internet can be used to collaborate in learning and education but they still have problems in their own communities, such as the various cries about editorial policy. The recent outcry over at BoingBoing regarding the unpublishing of Violet Blue’s posts. Whilst it is a blog and therefore subject to its own editorial, the outcry begins to go to the heart of the idea of community, how it is used and leveraged.

An earlier post on this blog from the Dilemmas conference suggests that this has not yet been fully argued and leveraged in the academic community. Repositories have to be linked not only to each other but also to outside, non-academic networks to become useful and keep universities and research councils are arbiters of knowledge and research.