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Jay Kirby

The limits of collaboration?

2 min read

This piece is a couple years old and looks at the "decline" of Wikipedia. The author notes that Wikipedia's group of core editors has dropped from 51,000 at its peak to 31,000 by the writing of the article. One reason is the move from a new, open, collaborative source to an established, well-regulated source. Simonite quotes findings from Halfaker et al., snidely remarking that Wikipedia should change its motto from "the encyclopedia that anyone can edit" to "the encyclopedia that anyone who understands the norms, socializes him or herself, dodges the impersonal wall of semi-automated rejection and still wants to voluntarily contribute his or her time and energy can edit."

To me, this brings up questions about collaboration. Who is allowed to collaborate? On what problems? And what environments allow for this collaboration? As Harris suggested, playing with collaboration and the digital humanities might require the ability to "fail." Did Wikipedia lose this ability once it became popular and started to be seen as a replacement or equal to the "old school" encyclopedias it was supposed to replace?

Also, in the rush to think of Web 2.0 as collaborative, Simonite quotes Clay Shirky advising that "collaboration" is not the same as "aggregation." And the collaborative effort of multiple people coming together on the Web for a goal is realtivley rare. Rather, much of the Web 2.0 work is an aggregation of people's individual thoughts and ideas. Is it okay to think of collaboration as aggregation or vice versa?

Jay Kirby

Why we use technology

2 min read

In this article, "Amish Hackers," by former Wired editor Kevin Kelly, the author attempts to show that Amish are not "luddites" but rather—he argues—"hackers." They do not reject technology solely because it is technology. Rather, Amish people analyze technology to see whether it furthers their goals of promoting community and family.

Amish use of cell phones is an interesting example that Kelly uses. According to the article, Amish do not fully reject cell phones (or not the Amish Kelly speaks with). Many own cell phones and use them. They were valuable. When traveling or out working, the Amish could call family for help or other needs. But, the Amish also found that the cell phones could be isolating; people go away from the community to talk to someone outside. Rather than rejecting the technology totally, though, they looked for compromises. Some groups only keep cell phones in vehicles. This way, they can take advantage of the communication opportunities (especially in emergencies) of cell phones while removing the individualistic uses of the phones.

I think this same mindset is valuable for technology in the classroom, and I think we've approached this in class. The question of technology in a classroom is not yes/no. In fact, it's probably not "the question." The question, rather, is likely not even about technology. I would argue that the question is what we want out of a classroom. Only then can we analyze new technologies and put them to use. Further, as the Amish show with cell phones, we don't necessarily have to use the technology the "right" way. We can instead use the technology differently in the way that best maximizes the goals of our classroom.