Open Codex HISTORICAL entry

2010 Oct 08 | Staeiou's Review and Technological Optimism

In Staeiou's review of Good Faith Collaboration he characterizes the work as an ethnographic take on the norms and their interpretations by community members and wider commentators. Furthermore, he notes this can be a limitation in that the reader "wishing to learn whether Wikipedians 'actually' assume good faith with each other or whether Wikipedia 'really' is an open community may be disappointed..." Instead of providing simple binary answers, my analysis reveals a "complicated set of priorities that the community works to balance." Similarly, he claims the reader will not find universal claims that Wikipedia is representative of a new Web 2.0 age of human advancement or necessarily provide a portable blueprint of a new business model.

To this I say, well read!

And actually, readers will find hyperbolic claims that Wikipedia is representative of an extraordinary shift in society and (contrarily) that it like a "quick sexual encounter at a bacchanal," but these are not my claims, rather they are a subject of the book.

In this way, writing the book was a challenging interdisciplinary exercise in that it has historical arguments, ethnographic portrayals and consequent theory, and critical analysis of popular and scholarly arguments. And I do disagree with Staeiou on one point with respect to Wikipedia's history, that "Reagle does not make the move of a historian and argue for himself that Wikipedia is the intellectual successor of these works." I do (at least attempt) to say this history is part of Wikipedia's heritage because while I do show "how Wikipedians see their project much in the same way as Denis Diderot and Paul Otlet" saw theirs, most Wikipedians are not aware of this shared aspiration themselves. And on this point, Staeiou's claim that the book will likely influence how Wikipedians and scholars will come to see Wikipedia is a rather flattering and generous one.

In any case, it is interesting to be speaking to people about the book, particularly when they assume that I am necessarily optimistic about technology and am willing to make universalizing claims or predictions about the future. As I responded in the excellent OpenSource interview, lessons can be learned but there is no wiki pixie dust. Wikipedia was interesting to me not because it is the new normal, but because it was a surprising attempt to counter the old normal of Godwin's law. I suspect this is why I found myself in sympathy with Gladwell's recent "why the revolution will not be tweeted" article and gob smocked by Negroponte's claim that the physical book will be dead in five years (based on Amazon reporting that Kindle versions are now outselling hard cover versions).

Open Communities, Media, Source, and Standards

by Joseph Reagle