Wikipedia Wins!

Shelley Bernstein, chief of technology at the Brooklyn Museum, told a story about how social networking can benefit a cultural institution. The museum posted some images from its collection on The Commons, a space on the photo-sharing site Flickr dedicated to public photo collections. Not much happened at first, she said, and the museum was about to abandon the experiment until a group of devoted Flickr users began to make use of the material. One was so taken by the museum’s photos of the 1893 Chicago Exposition that he started adding tags to identify different buildings. Like a good curator or archivist, he even provided sources. “Now we see people who have a real investment in these materials looking at them and helping us,” Ms. Bernstein said.

Switch-Tasking and Twittering Into the Future at Library and Museum Meeting, Jennifer Howard, March 2, 2009

I have to admit that despite my love of technology I’m skeptical about certain trends. There’s a fine line between innovation and planned obsolescence. Everyone likes a new shiny toy but not every new toy is worth the cost. I get tired, too, of the bias against Wikipedia, which is too often based in ignorance.

I might change my mind, but to me Twitter embodies the senseless pursuit of change and fun. It’s the very definition of tedious and silly, the pet-rock of communication. Nero tweats while Rome burns. Wikipedia in particular, and wikis in general, though, are innovations that continue to drive substantive change.

Collaborative writing technologies are going to transform learning in ways that are almost impossible to predict. I think the only certainty is that these changes are all going to recall the Wikipedia model of a organic, living body of knowledge created through conversation and debate. Twitter can’t touch that.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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