scathing critique of wikipedia by jaron lanier


Today, posted an essay by Jaron Lanier entitled "Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism." Here's the abstract:

The hive mind is for the most part stupid and boring. Why pay attention to it?

The problem is in the way the Wikipedia has come to be regarded and used; how it's been elevated to such importance so quickly. And that is part of the larger pattern of the appeal of a new online collectivism that is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force. This is different from representative democracy, or meritocracy. This idea has had dreadful consequences when thrust upon us from the extreme Right or the extreme Left in various historical periods. The fact that it's now being re-introduced today by prominent technologists and futurists, people who in many cases I know and like, doesn't make it any less dangerous.

This is a must-read piece for anyone interested in social computing generally, or wikipedia in particular. Whether or not you agree with Lanier, his criticisms are worth considering.


Most thought-provoking thing I've read all week. Thank you very much.

This was one of the best things I have read in quite a while. I have been complaining about all of the digg and other popularity engines and popular filtering sites. But Laron puts it in a much better perspective. I personally need smart tools to filter on my interest to remove the information flood. His focussing on connecting people and keeping information real and connected really resonated and seems to echo why I really am bothered with the popularity engines and the collective filters.

I am rarely find interest in the tag cloud and need to fly below the tag cloud to get to what I am interested in. Connecting people on their interests and particularly the niche interests is really valuable. We really need these smart tools not more common denominator aggregators.

"Collective is all-wise" incarnations seems to be invariably build on fear of the unknown (provides re-assurance) and abandon of responsibility (provides re-comfort).
In a way, the making of a new "digital identitarian community" resemble a lot some ancient and primitive times, where clans distinguish themselves through "micro totems". In those kinds of dark times, were new behaviors are in the making, it becomes unfortunately so easy and comfortable to be lured into the largest crowd. Be part of a larger body boost the self esteem by belonging.
Only the historical times and the context are different, not so much the human behavior.

Thanks for that link. The article looks fascinating and I'm eager to read it.

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on May 30, 2006 1:32 PM.

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