The Decline of Wikipedia

“As commercial websites have risen to prominence, online life has moved away from open, self-governed crowdsourcing communities like the one that runs Wikipedia, says Clay Shirky, a professor in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University. Shirky was one of the biggest boosters of an idea, popular during the previous decade, that the Web encouraged strangers to come together and achieve things impossible for a conventional organization. Wikipedia is proof there was some truth to that notion. But today’s Web is dominated by sites such as Facebook and Twitter, where people maintain personal, egocentric feeds. Outside specific settings like massive multiplayer games, relatively few people mingle in shared virtual space. Instead, they use mobile devices that are unsuited to complex creative work and favor neatly self-­contained apps over messier, interconnected Web pages. Shirky, who is an advisor to the Wikimedia Foundation, says people steeped in that model will struggle to understand how and why they should contribute to Wikipedia or any project like it. “Facebook is the largest participatory culture today, but their mode of participation is different,” he says. “It’s aggregating rather than collaborating.”

Gardner agrees that today’s Web is hostile to self-organized collective efforts, likening it to a city that has lost its public parks. “Our time is spent on an increasingly small number of increasingly large corporate sites,” she says. “We need more public space online.” In fact, Gardner is leaving the foundation at the end of the year in search of new projects to work on that very problem. She contends that even with all its troubles, Wikipedia is one of the Web’s few public parks that won’t disappear.”


Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

2 thoughts on “The Decline of Wikipedia”

  1. Sigh! The Lonely Crowd (Reisman?) gets bigger! America was built on small communities where the individual members felt a loyalty and affection for other members. Religious groups and sectarian organizations both played a major role. In colonial days, Quakers and Puritans illustrated the strength of such bonds. Elks and Rotarians worked together for worthwhile community causes. Large families, with cousins, aunts, and uncles provided a sense of belonging to all. Much has changed as these institutions have withered from our lives. Aside from commercialized spectator sports, our attention is mostly directed with anger at the corruption and violence surrounding our neighborhoods. Let’s pray that 50 years from now our citizenry is not living wretched, isolated lives, with no kith or kin, devoting their time to mindless computer games, their lives devoid of the comforts of nature and community.

    1. Bill, I’m reading a short book which speaks to this decline in civic mindedness and real community in America called “Gardens of Democracy.” The authors argue for a switch from what they term “Machinebrain,” to “Gardenbrain.” Lots of parallels with my “schools as ecosystems” metaphor.

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