Beyond Wikipedia

Last Monday in my Socio-Semantic Web and Knowledge Federation course I gave a lecture titled “Beyond Wikipedia.” The purpose of this lecture was:

  • To explain to the students the notion of knowledge federation and
  • To import into the course knowledge base the wealth of ideas that have been developed in connection with Wikipedia.  

‘Wikipedia vs. Britannica’ is a suitable leitmotif for knowledge federation because Wikipedia showed that a community of people can co-create a single, synthetic or community version of the truth, and in that way integrate the authored versions. What is lacking, say the critics, is the identity and the personal position of the author, and therefore also the accountability, the merit-and-reward and the multiplicity of views. I introduced knowledge federation simply as a combination of the conventional and the Wikipedia approach that preserves the advantages of both. 

A challenge behind knowledge federation is similar to the one that the political federations are facing—to create a synergy between the individual and the shared contributions and identities.

In the lecture, we looked at various points from the ‘Wikipedia vs. Britannica’ debate in order to understand the issues and to identify ways in which the conflicting positions can be reconciled. The lecture itself was organized in the Web 2.0 style. The lecture slides were interspersed with video clips and other material from the Internet, giving voice to distant contributors and distinct points of view. Following each point we had a brief dialog, during which the students could contribute to the lecture, and to our theme. 

krishnamurti-bohm1To mark the time slots for the dialogs, I used a photo of J. Krishnamurti and David Bohm in a dialog. I showed the first 4 1/2 minutes of their  dialog about the future of humanity to set the stage for the dialogs. While I tend to look at the world with more optimism than those two wise old men did, I do share their concern about the future, and their question: “If I were young and at the beginning of my career, what would I do?” I offered knowledge  federation to my students as a possible answer.

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