Cummings and Barton Chapter 1: What would the scribe say?

One of the advantages of living long enough to see changes, is having the opportunity to develop a perspective on change. This first chapter is about how Wikipedia changed knowledge sharing in a profound way.

If we look back in history, the first knowledge-sharing change would have been the advent of the written word. Prior to that, history was share through verbal stories. Scribes were employed to painstakenly record the events of the day, and create copies of major works such as the Bible.

The next big change occurred when printing presses enabled mass production and distribution of printed materials. Electronic media such as radio and television only expanded upon the capabilities of printed materials. In all of these cases, the information flowed in one direction – from the source to the consumer.

With the advent of the Internet, information sharing made another dramatic change. Suddenly, the audience is no longer a passive recipient but instead is an active participant in the information process. Audience members can comment and reply. We can contribute and speak. Interaction and information sharing is seen as having psychic income for those who are sharing. As a matter of fact, the audience can effect change though the force of social media. This force is referred to as groundswell.

Wikipedia builds upon the interactive force of the Internet. It broaden the scope of expertise input into the wiki from those select few in academia to anyone on the face of the earth with access to the Internet. While there are some accuracy pitfalls in such an open concept, there is also potential for massive rewards. While I don’t think citing Wikipedia in academic papers is a good idea, I do wholeheartedly support the premise that expertise exists outside of academia. Of course, the scribe who was replace by the printing press might not agree.


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