working online – collaboration in its infancy

An interesting article/interview with Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia Founder, touched on a number of issues important to my research. Here is the juiciest segment:

He acknowledged collaboration has its limits, noting that if “we said we want to write a novel about loss, and redemption, probably not so much public collaboration, that’s really an individual vision and a view of the world.”

“But for basic factual information, I think having an open public dialogue and debate and democratic process, seems to be very powerful.”

Wales also warned that major steps had to be considered to stop governments abusing ordinary people’s personal information, which is increasingly stored in vast computer databases.

He described potential government misuse of private citizens’ data as a “concern.”

(AFP via

Interesting issues raised that apply to anthropology and everyone else. Anthropologists need to worry about publishing damaging information, but with enormous databases being built to track every move one makes governments will have a hard time not using this information in ways Aldous Huxley dreamed about. The ethical challenges apply well beyond anthropology.

Further, collaborating openly online is something new – it’s not fully explored and it demands a bit of faith and commitment. It can be exciting, scary, and annoying as there are many pitfalls to work through. There are also huge technological divides, and I’m noticing more and more how difficult it is for some to go “native” online. Some people just won’t post a public message, even anonymously – perhaps out of the rational fear that it would eventually be used against them in some undetermined way.

[yes this is another juicy quotes post]


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