Friday, 28 August 2009

Failure of Web 2.0 Wikipedia and the Failure of Imagination

Share the Point: Wikipedia: No longer the Wild West? -

When Wikipedia implements its administrator control of living biographies (i.e. most of the interesting content in Wikipedia and all the dynamic political debate) it will mark much more than the end of the Wikipedia Utopian experiment.  After all that experiment has been dead for some time.  The writing on Wikipedia's wall (after all Wikis are just 3-D walls for graffiti) has been pretty damn clear for 5 years now.  The Wikipedia experiment is more than a failure, its a sad joke.  But the implementation of administrator control of Wikipedia, combined with Flickr sudden decison to deleted political images and discussions of political images. make the end of a false Utopia. The combination of these 2 acts, along with the segregation of Second Life into "adult" and "family" islands, marks the end of any hope of Web 2.0 forming in to a collective consensual empowered discourse between adults.

In the case of Flickr and Linden Labs the failure is that companies, by their very nature, can not create the common space of community.  Business by their very nature consume this common community in their pursuit of profit.  The workers of a company produce a community generally against the wishes of companies which can only function in terms of isolated consumers and workers and fixed tasks and procedures. Companies frankly know as much about how workers use community to enable their business to run as they know how to make gasoline or gold out of sub-atomic particles.  If they need gold they buy it from someone who jus digs it up.  If you dig it up you station guards around it until it runs out.  Companies just hire staff who form communities in a guarded space that the company owns but does not control. This is how companies work.  They can provide servies, never produce community.

But the sad failure of Wikipedia, and the long drawn out death of Wiki philosophy played out even on the Simpsons, resulted from a deeper failure of our Culture. Wikipedia failed  because of a failure of imagination on the part of the admins, the founders, and core users,

Wiki technology is just a hyper-text authoring system.  Its not in anyway a new technology or very interesting technology.  Implementing wiki in SharePoint or Wikispaces is very easy. 

The failure of Wikipedia and or Web 2.0 is the failure from the start to imagine a new community of knowledge production that could freely use the technology. 

Confronted with a tool that would allow anyone anywhere to create content, share content and collaborate content the founders of Wikipedia retreated in to imagining this space as an encyclopedia.

The "Encyclopedia" is a fixed social product with an established history and baggage of concepts that won't work in Web 2.0.  The very nature of Web 2.0 raises questions about meta-narrative, authority, consistency, centralism, and reliability.  Web 2.0 technology by its nature must make space for hybridization, virtualisation, marginality, anarchy and democracy.  These can't exist in the discourse of an Encyclopedia.  The conservative views of Wikipedias Randian founders (Ayn Rand killed the Inernet!) could not imagine the need to create new space of discourse to support new possibilities.

So how big is Wikipedia's utter failure? 

Well in a way its limited by the long period it has taken.  Wikipedia has become a more authoritian and arrogant version of usenet: full of dorks and falsehoods.  But usenet was what it was, it allows alt. spaces and Wikipedia lacks its chaos and pure joy.  So even though people have discounted Wikipedia for some time, in doing so they have discounted a reduced concept of collaboration than what was possible 15 years ago.  Wikipedia has shrunk the imagination of millions of web users at what is possible.

As of today no one is opening new space.  As I said in an earlier post a business will never be able to produce this space.  Business consume resources and produce only accumulate of Capital returns.  Wikipedia showed that this kind of courage of imagination is not collectively owned.  It resides in some great artists but this courage to be free of imagination is not yet a common trait, and until it is Web 2.,0 will always be a sad kind of joke.
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