June 06, 2006

Haven't we been here before?

Digital Maoism vs. Voice

Isn't that much like the issues we've looked at over the past few years:

Wikipedia vs. Britannica
Bloggers vs. Journalists
Remix culture vs. TV
Flickr vs. Getty Images
Wiki's vs. Blogs

All the talk this past week about Jaron Lainer's essay, The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism is another one of those 'or' things that keeps coming up around the internet. (Or Internet with a capital 'I', if the NY Times is your style guide.) As an aside, Sam Klein of Wikipedia at the on Monday, asked everyone to please (smile) stop calling it "the wikipedia." It's just "wikipedia." Ok, back to Wikipedia. So Wikipedia is not a replacement for Encyclopedia Britiannica. Instead, you use one for some things (I use wikipedia for finding links because Google's search results for many kinds of items are too polluted and unhelpful) and a reference like Britannica (well, not Britannica, but I have lots of other traditional old style references) for things that those top down, traditional reference sources cover better.

We use reporting from professional journalists for reporting, access to places individuals can't get into, and some kinds of news, and blog posts for voice, commentary, and some kinds of news and reporting. We use remix video for humor, smaller stories and short form video, and TV for long form, high production video. We use Flickr for the stream of photo images that comes from our friends and for some kinds of reporting, and we use Getty for.. well.. they are hard to use. So we don't buy a lot from them. Wikis are used for the collection of information around a topic or event, blogs are used for voice and commentary. Collective tools are used for collective action, and voice tools are used for voice.

The thing is there are choices, based on purpose, goal, need, process and style. And the choices are based on nuances that the arguments above cannot reasonable reduce to an 'either or' situation. A single thing is not meant to work in all instances. And the beauty of the internet combined with information technology is that together they give us lots of choices. Both for production and consumption.

I think the rest of the folks who responded to Lanier's essay did a great job of discussing the subtler ideas and arguments, so I'll let those stand as they were terrific. There is no need to restate the idea that some of Lanier's criticisms do not necessarily apply to Wikipedia, or that some others do apply, in specific contexts, but that wikipedia is supposed to function the way that it does.

I just wanted to point out that online, as everywhere else in life, we make choices, and the idea is to choose the best thing for the circumstances, not to expect that all things will work in all circumstances. The internet is no exception.

Posted by Mary Hodder at June 6, 2006 08:08 AM | TrackBack

I think the key is that, roiling under the surface, shifts in business models are being fought over. Often, it's not a matter of "the best thing for the circumstances", but an assertion that "this is cheaper" (sometimes it's said to be better, sometimes just good enough, but the selling point is cost). So even if the old forms don't disappear entirely, the pie is only so big. There's still someone losing business and someone gaining that business, hence the arguments.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at June 22, 2006 07:40 AM