In the International Courier of the first week of July 2006 appeared an interesting interview of the philosopher Norbert Bolz on the Internet (and as an example of the achievements of the Internet, Wikipedia). We reproduce some excerpts here (our analysis below):
Excerpts from the interview of the philosopher Norbert Bolz on Wikipedia
International Mail Question: Is the wisdom of the masses superior to the knowledge of the experts?
Answer by Norbert Bolz: Yes, and in much more of a regard: By its topicality, its magnitude, its depth and the richness of its references. On the other hand, there are naturally never highly abstract contributions Wikipedia, it is the doxa for the people. But when you're a professional, you have to communicate with professionals.
International Mail Question: The phenomenon also conceals very important economic developments. A company like Wikipedia threatens the existence of temples of public knowledge such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Do you sometimes hunger a sense of end of the world?
Answer by Norbert Bolz: No end of the world. But it is certain that there is something that changes in public relevance. The expertocratie loses ground, legitimacy. We can rightly say that the masses gain influence. People are becoming more and more idiotae – as the Middle Ages Nikolaus von Kues said – they are content with their opinion and do not listen to the literate.
Some elements of analysis:
The problem of the credibility of the source
These words have a little bit of reactionary that is not for displeasing.. Having said that, are "scholars" the only ones who can claim knowledge, the latter being unable to reach the masses other than in an aggregated, simplified, truncated or even erroneous form? That is not exactly the idea. The real problem seems rather relative to the sources. Who writes, who publishes on the Internet? Who hides behind a pseudo-moron? A scholar who has already written several thesis on the subject he approaches, or a little arsehole that undermines to know everything about everything?
Of all the blogs, however interesting, arises the problem of the identification of the author, which implies the commitment of the latter, the responsibility of the words held, and allows from the point of view of the reader to learn about his training or his Qualifications and its legitimacy to deal with this or that subject (it is also noted that the sites and blogs that attract the most visitors and generate the most feedback are those of identifiable, known or recognized authors, perhaps indicating, in a Some extent, beyond the "people" effect, that internet users would not want to be duped).
The problem of the source arises even more in the context of a collective enterprise such as Wikipedia. As much in the case of a blog one is sticking to a single digital puppet (whose work that gradually weaves so more or less internal coherence, regardless of the level of reflection or the amount of knowledge), as much on Wikipedia is Mix several tens of thousands of contributors that it is impossible to follow each to the trace (and so unequal both from the point of view of their intellectual abilities and the school of thought which they claim). The articles can therefore not be signed, or rather are signed "Wikipedia" but without this refers to a true community, simply a cluster of individuals with no other link than this impromptu encounter and that confront more than they work Together.
The Impossible objectivity and honest bias
Of course, the pretext of this non-identification is first and foremost the objectivity to which such an encyclopaedia claims: "No need to know which part to integrate in any way since we are in the whole". But we know what to do about "objectivity". The slightest example, the slightest turn of phrase, already implies a bias. There is no point in recalling in this vein that originally the Encyclopaedists project was at least as much to diffuse an ideology as to impart knowledge. Generally speaking, the label "objective" or "independent" is the first indicative of a bias that does not assume itself as such…
Conversely, another project of collaborative encyclopedic site such as Wikiberal for example (which is to be the "Wikipedia of Liberalism"), however partial, admits and claims its partiality: A reader can therefore reproach with reason the lack of " Objectivity of an article, but at least he knows what to stick to-and better yet: he knows what system of thought he can incorporate his reading. Moreover, the community to which the undertaking purports to relate is identifiable, it is possible to determine whether it is approved by that community or not, which is an additional appropriation. By assuming bias, by establishing a clear/uncompromising editorial line, the reader and the opinion and the filter are provided to decode it. Which is therefore not objective, certainly, but paradoxically perhaps more honest..
The problem of identity (anonymity) and stability (disappearance of Web pages)
There is still a problem, always relative to the sources but also concerning the Internet support in itself. The ability to identify and be able to relate an article to a broader set (to an author, to the work of an author, to a community, to a school, etc.) is not only sensible to serve the isolated reader: It is also a condition for being quoted, Reused, in short, be established as a reference. But not only would it be tricky to cite a "Zob4042" (pseudo having actually been used on a forum…) between a Kant and a Heidegger in a philosophy paper, but it is also difficult to ascertain the "stability" of what is referred to.
The Internet is indeed a particularly moving medium, where the pages are regularly edited, modified, where some even disappear purely and simply, and this regardless of the referent also equally unstable or difficult Manipulated (URLs of 150 characters, modified at each site restructuring or completely erased and recomposed in case of relocation of the site or change of host, etc.) Anyway…
The Internet is a medium, that is, a tool, and its value depends on how we use it. We can do a lot of things with it, but you always have to keep a reserve force… Power is nothing without control.
CC Photo Credit : Jeramey Jannee