I enjoyed learning about collaborative culture definitions from the book. Henry Jenkins defines participatory culture as one in which there are low barriers of engagement, support for creation and sharing, and some form of mentorship or socialization, and members believe that their contributions matter and they “feel some degree of social connection with one another”.
I agree with the author that openness and incrementalism may not be enough to create good quality content. “Wikipedia must reconcile their vision with the inescapable social reality of irritating personalities, philosophical difference and external threats”. He notes that “goodwill is not always necessary to Wikipedia’s production”.
Clay Shirky said: “Wikipedia is the product not of collectivism but of unending argumentation; the corpus grows not from harmonious thought but from constant scrutiny and emendation”.
Einbinder writes in the introduction to his critique, “since encyclopedia is a mirror of contemporary learning, it offers a valuable opportunity to examine prevailing attitudes and beliefs in a variety of fields.” Indeed, problems both in community’s culture and its content are a representation of our society.
“Thomas Mann, a librarian, argues we would be better … (know of) the pathologies that infect social organisms (ex. short-sightedness, selfishness, and ignorance are constant factors in human life), rather than celebrating the unproven presumption that technology can cure all. Wikipedia is said to favor mediocrity over expertise”.
It goes even further with this caricature: “fanatical mob producing Wikipedia exhibits little wisdom and is more like a Maoist cult of monkeys banging away on the keyboards and thumb pads of their gadgets, disturbing the noble repose of scholars and displacing high-quality content from the market place”.
I would say that any criticism should be constructive. I have no doubt that technology is capable of curing a lot of social problems; it just needs to be redesigned so that people cultivate their best qualities while using it.
Ideally, contributors should become more tolerant and compassionate in the process of collaboration. Today Wikipedia volunteers are restricted to behave with civility, but do they truly feel compassion to those with opposing views? Surely, they have a sense of purpose and connection to others, but at times Wikipedia becomes a vanity project for those proving their personal significance at the expense of others.
Georg von Krogh, in his article on “Care in knowledge creation”, identifies five dimensions relevant to the successful creation of knowledge within a community: mutual trust, active empathy, access to help, lenience in judgment, and courage. Benkler and Nissenbaum argue that “commons-based peer-production” entails virtues that are both self-regarding” (ex. autonomy, independence, creativity) and ”other-regarding” (ex. generosity, altruism, camaraderie, cooperation, and civic virtue).
The author says that “the central concern seems to be how we can conceive of our humanity in working together and its implications”. His definition of good faith is “assuming the best of others, striving for patience, civility, and humor”, and Wikipedia is trying to act with it.
From 2004 Letter from the Founder: “None of us is perfect in these matters; such is the human condition. But each of us can try every day, in our editing, in our mailing posts, in our irc chats, and in our private emails, to reach for a higher standard than the Internet usually encourages, a standard of rational benevolence and love”.
Personally, I think that Wikipedia is a great invention and a great resource, but it is just the beginning of an even better model of gathering knowledge and resolving misunderstandings and conflicts. Let’s call it 1.0 version where people work together towards one great goal. It is a good start. Next version would align personal goals of the members with community’s goals, and help them rediscover and develop themselves in the process of compassionate creation.
Re-posted from The Ultimate Answer