Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The failures of the online collective mind

There is a nice rant at: On "Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism" By Jaron Lanier. I do agree with it in many points - but I don't agree with the overall diagnosis rejecting the online hive mind as 'too collective'. I would rather talk about particular systems and their failures than rejecting all of them in one sweep. It is not that digital communication forces us for more collectivism or less collectivism - digital communication is the most malleable form of communication there ever existed and we can change it and amend to fit any model we think of. There are more collective trends in it with wikis, aggregators etc. - but blogs composite a completely opposite trend of total autonomy of the individual.

In this vein I created following list of digital media failures:
  1. averaging everything to the mediocre, homogenized pulp - this is the sin of aggregators and very big wikis
  2. Skewing the process of averaging towards people who have too much time or some freaky motivation (this is what I was analysing in One email per day - a moderation scheme and Online Debate (continuing 'One email per day'))
  3. Accrection of information without the balancing force of forgetting it - this is the primary problem with wikis (adding new comments is easy, refactoring is hard), blogs and email lists solve that by 'forgetting' the older content and letting it resurface if it is really important
For sure there are many more of them - but I believe by splitting them into more concrete and better described chunks we can analyze them and then try to fix them in our online communication tools.

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1 comment:

phil jones said...

Yeah, the problem is not how to have more or less "collectivity" It's how to make collectivity work.

The nice thing about the new online collectivity is that we have a laboratory for running dozens of different experiments.

Totally agree with the "refactoring wiki is harder than you think" part. I'm wondering a lot about that at the moment. I feel there's a wealth of good stuff in ThoughtStorms that's completely confused and inaccessible to people.