Web 2.0

Wikipedia usage part 3 / long tail of production / further thoughts

Nicholas Carr’s post last week about participation rates in Wikipedia has set some ripples in motion across the Web 2.0 blogosphere.

Ross Mayfield weighs in with an excellent post on the ‘power law of participation’ which basically confirms what some of us have thought for a while, whilst still retaining a sense of a paradigm shift. Mayfield’s power law graph is an excellent condensing of ideas.

(from Ross Mayfield)

Umair Haque, who is really one of the most challenging thinkers on 2.0 theory in the blogosphere at the moment, rightly sees that low participation figures are a bit of a red herring. My own concerns that the vast majority just want to ‘read’ rather than ‘create’ ignored the automatic creation that happens when you read something on the net – log file data is collected and at its most rudimentary can be used to personalise future reading for you.

But I do think that at the museum we are in a quite unique position – even in comparison to other museums.

My copy of Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth Of Networks arrived from Amazon last week as well and I’ve started ploughing through it. Benkler makes a lot of important points and has gone as far as releasing his own book as a free PDF download, and set up a collaborative wiki for the communal fleshing out of ideas. I opted for the hard copy mainly so I could read it on the train.

Benkler writes in the introduction, discussing democracy and a critical culture,

The networked information economy also allows for the emergence of a more critical and self-reflective culture. In the past decade, a number of legal scholars — Niva Elkin Koren, Terry Fisher, Larry Lessig, and Jack Balkin — have begun to examine how the Internet democratizes culture. Following this work and rooted in the deliberative strand of democratic theory, I suggest that the networked information environment offers us a more attractive cultural production system in two distinct ways: (1) it makes culture more transparent, and (2) it makes culture more malleable. Together, these mean that we are seeing the emergence of a new folk culture — a practice that has been largely suppressed in the industrial era of cultural production — where many more of us participate actively in making cultural moves and finding meaning in the world around us. These practices make their practitioners better “readers” of their own culture and more self-reflective and critical of the culture they occupy, thereby enabling them to become more self-reflective participants inconversations within that culture. This also allows individuals much greater freedom to participate in tugging and pulling at the cultural creations of others, “glomming on” to them, as Balkin puts it, and making the culture they occupy more their own than was possible with mass-media culture. In these senses, we can say that culture is becoming more democratic: self-reflective and participatory. (Benkler, Y, 2006, The Wealth Of Networks, Yale, New Haven, p16.)