[Update May 21, 2007: Trackbacks closed because of spam.]
This is getting fun!
Which is faster? Communication in a relatively small group of academics, “viral marketing” from Internet celebrities, or blogs by entreprising Web-savvy people? In this case, seems like the latter has an advantage.
Not that it matters. But it’s interesting, in the context of the move toward Open Access in academia.
A quick rundown of a few elements in a timeline surrounding the dissemination of ideas about the “Web 2.0” via a video created by a fellow anthropologist. I haven’t been really involved in this dissemination process but I find interesting some of the links that connect some of the people who are involved.
On January 31, Kansas State University anthropologist Michael Wesch posted a neat video on YouTube, apparently in response to a video about Web 2.0 posted by China-based tech educational specialist Jeff Utecht almost a year ago. The video has been attracting a lot of attention from different people and some of this attention has followed interesting paths.
Lessard had already written a piece on six cultural groups characterising Internet’s continuing history. That piece has been at the back of my mind for a while, especially when the concept of “Web 2.0” is discussed.
(FWIW, since hearing about it in Tim O’Reilly’s writing a few years ago, I have been thinking of “Web 2.0” as a decent label. That label has already been overused but it did lead to interesting discussions by diverse people.)
Apparently, Lessard found Wesch’s video through someone else. Others have certainly created buzz about Wesch’s video for other reasons (techno-enthusiasm) but Lessard appears to have been rather quick at noticing the insight in Wesch’s video. In fact, Lessard’s blog entry about the video is itself quite insightful and rather elaborate.
This is the first example, in the paths I’ve observed, through which Wesch’s video has been commented. It’s the one linking what we may call “entreprising Web analysts.” People who make a living online (and may depend on online social networking like LinkedIn and blogs). Seems like this path was the fastest one, though I have no idea what happened with Weisch’s video between January 31 and February 5.
A second line of dissemination: what we may call “viral marketing by Internet celebrities.”
On February 6, Internet celebrity and science-fiction author Cory Doctorow (a fellow post-Buster Canadian) mentions Wesch’s video on his well-known blog BoingBoing (through a mention on gaming blog Wonderland). Internet celebrity and Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig then posts a blog entry about Wesch’s video on February 7. (Interestingly enough, on Lessig’s blog, some comments about the video relate to ethnography and cultural anthropology.)
Now, the third mode of dissemination: informal communication among academics.
By February 9, Michigan State University librarian Shawn Nicholson sends a message to librarian mailing-list ANSS-L about the video. This message is relayed to a Google Group on Open Access Anthropology by Weber State University librarian Wade Kotter.
(As luck would have it, I attended a brewclub meeting later on February 9 and fellow Montreal coffee and beer enthusiast Aaron Marchand was asking about Web 2.0 after having seen Wesch’s video.)
As it so happens, Michael Wesch himself is a member of the OA Anthropology Google group and he explained to the list, on February 10, that this video is a draft created for an online edition of academic journal Visual Anthropology Review.
It’s only at that time that I found the time to watch the video and share it here. Anthropologist and artist Sarah Butler then commented on the video via my blog. Which motivated me to to send a message to OA Anthro about Web 2.0 in the context of Open Access. It’s only while writing that message that I noticed Lessard’s earlier blog entry on Wesch’s video.
Now, what’s my point in all of this? Well, I’m simply trying to emphasise Wesch’s idea that online communication (and the Web, specifically) may be forcing us to rethink different aspects of the dissemination of knowledge. Including the differences between , one one hand, academic gatekeeping (experts and “peers”) and, on the other hand, the fluid relationships of online-savvy, motivated people.
In other words, I’m emphatically not saying that any of this proves that academics are too slow for the current means of online communication. Nor am I trying to imply that communication among Web-savvy people is in some ways “better” than group discussion among academics. But we do need to reassess the value of “publishing” as the sole model for the dissemination of knowledge.
Why do I care so much? Well, apart from the fact that my doctoral research has to do with what we may call “knowledge workers” in Mali, I happen to care about the way academics and others handle issues surrounding communication. As naïve as it sounds, I still do think that dissemination of knowledge is an important mission for academics.
My battle cry: RERO!