Not sure if any of you have seen this or not, but reading this reminded me of our class conversations on gamification a few weeks ago. Creepy stuff!
In its “Orientation for New Instructors,” Wikipedia claims that it strives to present its articles from a “neutral point of view,” which is defined as “representing significant views fairly, proportionately and without bias.” From a pedagogical perspective, the guide adds that “Wikipedia’s neutral point of view policy is a great way to cultivate critical reading and evaluation skills… Instructors often find it helpful to encourage students to analyze the choices they make about weight, reliability, and their own ideas of neutrality.”
By contrast, the Orientation for New Instructors discusses the “[Be] Bold, Revert, Discuss cycle” as “one good way to think about the consensus editing process.” Specifically, before reaching a consensus through negotiation, the Wikipedian is advised to be bold; specifically, “if you think you can make an article better, but you aren’t sure whether others will disagree with the changes you want to make, you should start by boldly editing as you think best.” Here I would like to briefly explore some effects of this (perhaps paradoxical, at the very least not self-obvious) claim to ‘neutral boldness’ in terms of the missions of Wikipedia to expand access to knowledge.
First, to what degree does the ethos of the “bold, revert, discuss cycle” mirror the tech startup development mantra of lean/agile development and ‘fail fast’? It reminds me of Sheryl Sandberg’s ideas in Lean In, cited by David Brooks in his article “The Practical University” (which outlines ‘soft skills’ such as “the ability to be assertive in a meeting; to disagree pleasantly; to know when to interrupt and when not to; to understand the flow of discussion and how to change people’s minds; to attract mentors; to understand situations; to discern what can change and what can’t”). What social and moral values does this process itself encode? As the Wikipedia training puts it, this seems like a permutation of the idea of talk and political action in the ancient Greek model of the democratic polis: citizens engage in debate, and in so doing ascend to a higher plane of personal and collective good by putting their personal needs to one side; as Ryan McGrady writes in the pamphlet on “Wikipedia and the Production of Knowledge,” “editors receive credit and recognition not for new scholarly ideas, but for their procedural expertise, discursive skills which propel collaboration, and their efforts working toward a common good.”
Because we read Thomas Friedman’s enthusiastic and uncritical op-ed on MOOCs, I was reminded of this site. Except for his uncharacteristic boosterism, I felt that most of what he wrote could have been created with it, as is the case in general with his columns.
I regret having been so sick last night during our class and hope that I didn’t infect any of you with my miserable cold. Hoping you have a good Thanksgiving holiday and get a much needed break from GC. See you next Monday. Best, Steve
For anyone who is interested, I’ve attached links to a few articles about Richard Prince’s appropriation of photos taken by others and the debate this has raised and ownership (especially in the digital sphere). One is actually from today, so this is an ongoing debate. There’s also a link to an article about Zara’s stealing from indie artists.
I shared this with people who attended the lab about Wikipedia a few weeks ago. But if you haven’t gone to the page “Listen to Wikipedia,” you might want to give it a listen. It’s a sonification and visualization of the live edits taking place on Wikipedia. You can see the edits taking place in any of a several dozen languages. (It certainly says a lot about the prevalence of English as a global language.)
Listen to Wikipedia
“I see the presence of many divides-which are better labeled as perspectives- as a sign that there are many stakeholders in the digital humanities, which is a good thing. We’re all in this together even when we’re not.” –Mark Sample
I just wanted to make a brief mention of how much I enjoyed reading Mark Sample’s article “The Digital Humanities is not about Building, It’s About Sharing”. It happened that this was actually one of the first things I read after learning the election and I was surprised at how much it resonated with the way I was feeling in that moment. If you eliminate the words “digital humanities” from the above passage, it presents a fairly optimistic message for considering where we now find ourselves as a country.
In feeling that our nation’s divisions are carrying us into ever more frightening terrain, I think it’s worth considering how we might be able to hear one another out, especially perhaps, when we our opinions appear to be on opposite sides of a great divide. Thinking of these differences as “perspectives” feel like a step closer to being able to have a dialogue with someone, even when you fundamentally disagree with many things they are saying.
As I assume this book was conceived before Facebook became a phenomenon and a daily ritual for lots of internet users, Benkler brought up many points that are proved by the latter. Network users, especially on Facebook, where allows for social interaction to go beyond a small group, “spatial constraints, and even time synchronicity,” engage in social activity and transmit information that involves a much larger extent than previous.
Other than keeping up with close friends and family, networks also create a space in which Benkler’s “weak ties” can be built, maintained, and potentially enhanced. “Weak ties” refers to acquaintances we recognize by names but would not make the effort to mail physical holiday cards. Networks such as Facebook is an ideal place to preserve such weak ties as such sites facilitate searching for such people, and sending a greeting instead of relative stress that might accompany a phone call or even an email. Although I do agree to a certain extent that such networked weak ties might become easier to access when one needs a favor or a particular service from them, but then is it reasonable to doubt that one’s identity and social function in the real world could be taken into consideration when friending one another on networks?
A couple of the blog posts reference the conversation and controversy about the detrimental impact of “fake news” stories going viral prior to the elections. As part of this there has been a call for Facebook and other social media sites to intervene and more strongly moderate the content of Facebook postings. I share the concern about the ability of the right to massively disseminate damaging false information. However, I am also very concerned about the likelihood for greater efforts to control and limit our access to information with a Trump presidency – and think it’s important to consider critically the implications of joining in with calls for greater control. I am sharing Robert Parry’s article from this perspective. Below is a brief quote and link to the full article.
“In the wake of Donald Trump’s victory, a hot new issue – raised by President Obama in an international setting on Thursday and touted on The New York Times’ front page on Friday – is the problem of “fake news” being disseminated on the Internet. Major Internet companies, such as Google and Facebook, are being urged to censor such articles and to punish alleged violators. Also, teams of supposedly “responsible” news providers and technology giants are being assembled to police this alleged problem and decide what is true and what is not. But therein lies the more serious problem: who gets to decide what is real and what is not real? And – in an age when all sides propagate propaganda – when does conformity in support of a mainstream “truth” become censorship of reasonable skepticism?”
What to Do About ‘Fake News’
In Chapter 8 of The Wealth of Networks, Benkler argues networked information/open source is producing a new popular culture where the masses are more active in cultural production relative to the model of the 20th Century (I agree with this). Through transparency and participation “the networked information economy creates greater space for critical evaluation of cultural materials and tool.” (I don’t agree with this…at least not the transformative power of it.)
I have to agree with Kat’s post; while mass communications/cultural production is more democratic than it’s ever been due to technology (at least in the United States) i think we’ve moved past the potential of the internet if you acknowledge the power structures still set in place in this country.
What does it mean for cultural freedom that Facebook wouldn’t remove fake news before the election?