Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl(&$output) in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/classes.php on line 576

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl(&$output) in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/classes.php on line 576

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el(&$output) in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/classes.php on line 576

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el(&$output) in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/classes.php on line 576

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_PageDropdown::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el(&$output) in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/classes.php on line 593

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl(&$output) in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/classes.php on line 687

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl(&$output) in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/classes.php on line 687

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el(&$output) in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/classes.php on line 687

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el(&$output) in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/classes.php on line 687

Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_CategoryDropdown::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el(&$output) in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/classes.php on line 710

Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class wpdb in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/wp-db.php on line 58

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/cache.php on line 99

Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class WP_Object_Cache in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/cache.php on line 404

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/query.php on line 21

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/cool/cool.org/wp-includes/theme.php on line 576
The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!
Skip Navigation.

Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!

Old Lady Who Swallowed A FlyI couldn’t come up with a title for this post while writing it, but kept thinking of that great line from David Nobel’s America by Design:

For technology is not simply a driving force in human history, it is something in itself human; it is not merely man-made, but made of men.” (1977, xxi-xxii

I’m indebted to John Labovitz for his comments on my wiki lament and for pointers to two articles about efforts to build a better wiki. The first, “Meet the uber-wiki”, is about WikiProfessionial’s WikiProteins, a wiki with structured data, automatic updates of related pages and alerts. The second is a piece by Tim O’Reilly about a recent NSF award to the University of Colorado to research and create a “New Generation Wiki” that goes “beyond existing wikis.” (It’s gotta be vaporware when one of the specifications is “utilize new paradigms.” As if simply “using” them weren’t enough. “Use”, “utilize,” do you know the difference?)

Even though these projects seem to respond to many of the concerns I had with wikis as groupware, for me they call to mind the children’s song about the old lady who swallowed a fly. That is, in terms of the ailment I described as wiki-mania, these cures may simply be more of the disease. The problems to which I point–of creating meaningful order collectively–are not, I think, chiefly problems of software but of socialization. From that standpoint, the fact that wikiware is the object on which the talk centers is itself indicative of the problem, namely, the tendency to see collaborative representation and storage of knowledge primarily in technical terms. There’s a saying that any problem in computer science can be solved by another layer of indirection, but this problem is simply bumped along to each new layer. Users are part of the system, you always get to them in the end, and there’s no system so robust it can’t be thwarted by ignorant armies, or subverted by clever ones. Right about now is when the techno-faithful (friends and colleagues) usually protest “but you shouldn’t have to be an expert” and I counter, “Yes, silly, but there’s a whole spectrum out there, why dash to an extreme?” Because “plug-and-play” isn’t the only alternative to expertise, no matter how those “Exegesis for Dummies” books would have it.

Focus on perfecting the wiki will not get at the concerns I was raising which were more along the lines of acknowledging that inculcating users in habits of mind and protocols is vital to any wiki project. Of course, to take that on sincerely requires swimming upstream against a strong cultural current that views meaningful social order as something that arises automagically from myriad individual transactions. Evidence of this current, as well as the social relations within which wikis work, can be found in this blog about Wikipedia edit-wars (start at the bottom).

Here, Parker Peters, a (former?) Wikipedia admin, expounds with great detail and vigor on the tactics by which, as he sees it, “Wikipedia turns ‘consensus’ into ‘groupthink’.” What interests me most is his notion that legitimate consensus is threatened the instant individuals act in concert. It comes forth most clearly in the post Lesson #3: Organize, Organize, Organize where he writes: “First of all, the idea of “consensus” is thrown under the bus as soon as an organized group shows up trying to push their own point of view.”

I understand where Peters is coming from and feel his frustration because, whatever the particulars in contention, I wouldn’t suppose that an artifact such as Wikipedia could be anything other than a social construct (with all that that implies). It’s a point Stephen Colbert gets across more pointedly and mirthfully in Wikiality, The Truthiness Encyclopedia

One of my newbie complaints of Wikipedia was, in fact, that articles didn’t include anything about who’d authored them, so that I might understand on what bases they advanced their claims to knowledge? But the aspiration to “neutral point of view” is one Peters shares with Wikipedia. His critique basically calls project admins to task for acting against values they purportedly have in common.

It is these values in which I’m interested, or rather, the conceptions of the social they bespeak. How do you distinguish between “groupthink” and shared values you do, or do not, happen to share? What are the bounds of consensus? The conditions of community? In what size and kinds of groups does legitimate discourse take place, that is, what distinguishes a cabal from a public? Though such questions may seem far afield from my complaints of wiki-mania, the connecting thread I’m tracing is a backgrounding (and even eclipsing) of the social work entailed in collecting and representing knowledge of any sort. It’s never merely a matter of technicalities, so when you background all thinking about what records or articles should consist of, or move from a world of pages, to one of feeds, without much attention, let alone discussion, of what habits of mind can be translated or rendered in the new media, you quickly run into all sorts of problems. You can throw all the “New Generation” and “uber” warez you want at these problems, but the trend toward field specific wikis (WikiProfessional) and initiatives like Citizendium which “aims to improve on the Wikipedia model by adding “gentle expert oversight” and requiring contributors to use their real names,” indicate their deeply social and conventional nature.

20 Comments - Join in the conversation below »

  1. Aldo Amyotte…

    I think other web-site proprietors should take this site as an model, very clean and fantastic user friendly style and design, as well as the content. You are an expert in this topic!…

    Trackback by bilan carbone — August 20, 2011 @ 11:41 am

  2. Online Article……

    [...]The information mentioned in the article are some of the best available [...]……

    Trackback by Heaters For Home — October 30, 2011 @ 11:44 pm

  3. Check this out…

    [...] that is the end of this article. Here you’ll find some sites that we think you’ll appreciate, just click the links over[...]……

    Trackback by Gas Heaters — November 19, 2011 @ 1:01 am

  4. futbol club barcelona…

    [...]please stop by the internet sites we stick to, such as this 1, because it represents our picks from the web[...]…

    Trackback by futbol club barcelona — December 16, 2011 @ 8:34 am

  5. IP Whois…

    [...]check beneath, are some totally unrelated websites to ours, having said that, they may be most trustworthy sources that we use[...]…

    Trackback by IP Whois — December 16, 2011 @ 11:06 am

  6. Lose The Man Boobs…

    [...]The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men![...]…

    Trackback by Lose The Man Boobs — May 17, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

  7. Hi…

    I am often to blogging and i really appreciate your content. The article has really peaks my interest. I am going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new information….

    Trackback by Art & Design Inspiration — April 30, 2013 @ 9:04 am

  8. payday loans uk no credit check…

    The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!…

    Trackback by payday loans uk no credit check — April 30, 2013 @ 10:09 am

  9. voyance gratuite immediate…

    The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!…

    Trackback by voyance gratuite immediate — May 13, 2013 @ 9:03 pm

  10. video porno streaming…

    The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!…

    Trackback by video porno streaming — May 13, 2013 @ 10:46 pm

  11. voyance par téléphone…

    The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!…

    Trackback by voyance par téléphone — May 13, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

  12. voyance…

    The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!…

    Trackback by voyance — May 13, 2013 @ 11:20 pm

  13. voyance gratuite…

    The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!…

    Trackback by voyance gratuite — August 24, 2013 @ 12:06 am

  14. Cuadro de Mando Integral…

    The Participant Observer…

    Trackback by Cuadro de Mando Integral — September 1, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

  15. analiza rynku ZamóWień publicznych…

    The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!…

    Trackback by analiza rynku ZamóWień publicznych — May 17, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

  16. consultation voyance gratuite par chat…

    The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!…

    Trackback by consultation voyance gratuite par chat — July 19, 2014 @ 4:23 am

  17. girl conception…

    The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!…

    Trackback by girl conception — July 25, 2014 @ 9:37 am

  18. get your lifelock coupon here…

    The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!…

    Trackback by get your lifelock coupon here — October 5, 2014 @ 6:03 am

  19. Click to find top professional mens pants…

    The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!…

    Trackback by Click to find top professional mens pants — November 9, 2014 @ 12:28 am

  20. voyance par mail gratuite et sérieuse…

    The Participant Observer » Blog Archive » Mmm technology, not merely man-made, but made of men!…

    Trackback by voyance par mail gratuite et sérieuse — November 11, 2014 @ 8:43 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.