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Does it make sense to talk about authorship in collaborative environment? Should all web 2.0 knowledge builders be anonymous? What’s the value of authorship?

These are some of the questions that started to arise after reading a post in zephoria’s blog. Here I copy the part I consider resums the key issue:

“Since Knol launched in beta, folks have been comparing it to Wikipedia (although some argue against this comparison). Structurally, they’re different. They value different things and different content emerges because of this. But fundamentally, they’re both about making certain bodies of knowledge publicly accessible. They just see two different ways to get there – collaborative anarchy vs. controlled individualism. Because Knol came after Wikipedia, it appears to be a response to the criticisms that Wikipedia is too open to anonymous non-experts.”

Collaborative anarchy vs. controlled individualism, is that what we should consider at the time of developping collaborative environments for knowledge building? Does authorship guarantee the credibility of a text, or any other material?

wikipediaObviously, wikipedia seems to be “the” Example of collaborative knowledge production. However, isn’t the critical mass of editors as well as other measures of control, a guarantee for information veracity? At this point it’s useful to take into account the following

“a controversial study by Nature in 2005 systematically compared a set of scientific entries from Wikipedia and Britannica (including some from the Britannica Web edition), and found a similar rate of error between them.”

http://yupnet.org/zittrain/archives/16

Possibly, the next question I should ask myself is… What determines our level of trust at the time of evaluating information? Quite probably, in many contexts Britannica seems more trustful than Wikipedia when, from my point of view, we should keep the same levels of skepticism in both cases. I don’t know why, but it could seems that “collaborative anarchy” can easily get associated with chaos and lack of rigor. And really, after reading a bit about wikipedia history I’ve realized that information posted there is much more supervised and can be corrected more fastly than any other online encyclopedia. Obviously, scalability in collaborative knowledge production environments is a problem or, at least, a difficulty to overcome. However, if it succeeds it brings an additional value: the consolidation of a digital identity. We don’t know who are britannica redactors nor wikipedia editors, so authorship can always be a non answered question. At this point, I would say that, possibly, wikipedia can have a stronger digital identity than many other online encyclopedias.  Anyway, the issue behind authorship is closely related with responsability. Who will accept responsabilities (legal, economical…) in case someone feels offended by false information?

I don’t want to underestimate responsability in everything I/you can say, write, post or just reproduce, but I’m not sure if the solution is an economic or legal penalty. Wikipedia has develop its own mechanisms to avoid/solve errors and its corrections are the result of a public debate. This it’s more effective than simple posting a note accepting the mistake as many media do.

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