<CPOV> Conditions for the Possibility of CPOV?

Jon Awbrey jawbrey at att.net
Tue Mar 16 05:08:10 CET 2010

Geert Lovink wrote:
> On 12 Mar 2010, at 5:04 PM, Jon Awbrey wrote:
> > | What are the conditions for the possibility
> > | of critical points of view arising, surviving,
> > | and thriving on the Web?
> CPOV is about Wikipedia (and it is not ...).  The Web is a lot, these 
> days. The prime condition, in my view, would be lively communities of 
> people who care, who are prepare to fight and argue, who believe that 
> stuff matters.  We have to fight indifference. This is why, in the end, 
> we of the cpov initiative believed that we should indeed have a list 
> like this.

Wikipedia is a part of my past -- a promise unfulfilled.
Looking back over the last decade, I think it's fair to
say that I had better discussions on these slower paced
lists than I ever in had in the chaotic pressure cooker
vats of Wikipedia.  So maybe that tells us one enabling
condition for critical, reflective, independent thought.

> We cannot not presume that communities exist and do their (good) work.
> Not even this one.  Social ties as defined by Facebook, Studi-VZ, Hyves,
> and others will not do the job.  In the case of Wikipedia the question
> for me would be if it is possible to build up a critical discourse outside
> of the small Western white male geek core that makes out the Wikimedia
> foundation.  Wikipedia as a unique project deserves it to be more open, 
> more diverse. But this will not fall out of the skies.

No indeed.  And there is much more to diversity than geekiness, genes, and geography.
The past few decades have brought us a revival of many perennial questions about the
nature of inquiry as a community enterprise.  Many old themes have been played again,
with tunes both familiar and strange -- from values clarification, critical thinking,
learning organizations, reflective practitioners, and the scholarship of integration
to crowd-sourcing and even some buzz about "hive minding".  Sorting the eternal from
the evanescent will not be a task for bots, if you ask me.

> There is a user culture that needs to be changed. We need better wiki software
> (a major update, please!), better interfaces and more contemporary multimedia
> content.  First and foremost, the moderators will have to stop their harsh
> treatments of first contributors.  We need to train students, academics
> and professionals to become regular contributors.  This is all critical
> work to me.  Debates will have to be encouraged. What the net needs
> right now is a rich discussion culture. Less insults and extreme
> opinions, more rhetorics.  There is an art of debating, and
> projects like Wikipedia can help us to (re-)establish it.

It's always nice to have slicker tech, but I don't think it's going to
be a matter of finding or making the right app this time.  Much to the
contrary, I think that the gadget geeks need to sit down, shut up, and
listen to the academics and professionals for a change.  Social media
system designers need to leave off trying to "train" these classes of
potential contributors -- they are far more trained already than their
would-be "trainers" ever thought of becoming.  Wannabe designers need
to start trying to find out what these folks need from Future Systems --
the Wikipedia Train is already wrecked as far as serving these prior
communities is concerned -- if they want them to participate at all.

Jon Awbrey


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