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June 06, 2006

Digital Maosim: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism


Collective Action or Collectivism?

"In "Digital Maosim", an original essay written for Edge, computer scientist and digital visionary Jaron Lanier finds fault with what he terms the new online collectivism. He cites as an example the Wikipedia, noting that "reading a Wikipedia entry is like reading the bible closely. There are faint traces of the voices of various anonymous authors and editors, though it is impossible to be sure".

His problem is not with the unfolding experiment of the Wikipedia itself, but "the way the Wikipedia has come to be regarded and used; how it's been elevated to such importance so quickly. And that is part of the larger pattern of the appeal of a new online collectivism that is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force. This is different from representative democracy, or meritocracy. This idea has had dreadful consequences when thrust upon us from the extreme Right or the extreme Left in various historical periods. The fact that it's now being re-introduced today by prominent technologists and futurists, people who in many cases I know and like, doesn't make it any less dangerous"." From John Brockman's Introduction to Digital Maosim: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism by Jaron Lanier, Edge. See Collective Action is not Collectivism by Howard Rheingold. Other responses, 2.

Posted by jo at June 6, 2006 11:46 AM