Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mass Collaboration

This concept is where large numbers of individuals work independently, but combine their collective knowledge in order to produce a project. The power of the internet has allowed this to become an idea that many of us are familiar with, for example Wikipedia.

Mass collaboration can be researched further here, where the article refers to these 4 important points
  • being open
  • peering
  • sharing
  • acting globally
In fact, with a world first, the New Zealand Government in late 2007 gave the public the opportunity to directly contribute to law making, by launching an online wiki where people could make suggestions to the wording of a new police act.

This form of collaboration certainly covers the four points mentioned above. It is open, as anyone with access to a computer can contribute. Peering means that any contributers who write "nonsense" will be sorted out and discarded by the self-policing nature of a wiki. Sharing means that certain products (in this case the product would be the new act) can be brought to the market more quickly, because the open and peering nature of the process allow information to flow more freely, with less restrictions. As for acting globally, in this case it is certainly acting country-wide.

This type of collaboration may be new with respect to writing laws, but other examples exist in recent history. They include other important issues such as the human genome sequencing project.

In fact, with regard to writing laws, there exists the potential to have an entire government designed mass-collaboratively. This is a theoretical from of governement, but, as the New Zealand example shows, in the near future we may be set to see profound changes that will change the way we do everything; from mixing music and maintaining health to determining government policy.

The Power of the Web

"The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect." This quote from Tim Berners-Lee, one of the inventors of the World Wide Web. The power lies in the fact that the web allows all of us to provide and receive information, and to interact with others via this medium.

Day to day use of the web finds many of us providing information (social networking, blogs, twitters), not to mentions the millions of businesses that provide information to customers about their products or services. Looking for information can be seen via the ubiquitous use of such products such as the many Google applications (earth, reader, scholar) to refine and narrow the search for sought-after information.

Information is the new currency that oils this system. As a consumer, the power of this information has altered the traditional "informational assymmetry" that previously existed between customers/clients and service/product suppliers.

Once, people in need of decision-determining information had to rely on others with specialized knowledge to provide that information. These providers of that information could use the fact that the consumer was not privy to the same set of facts and trends, and could use that inside knowledge to advantage when encouraging a sale or closing a deal.

It would have been very difficult for the consumer to address this imbalance; it would require time and energy to gain enough of this "informational currency" to be able to make an informed decision completely independent of the actual "expert".

Now, the web has allowed all of us the potential to become experts. We can access stock information, medical literature, house prices, school reviews, hardware specifications, our children's grades; all at the click of a mouse. This revolutionary change has made it possible for us to take a more active and critical role in our own lives. The power of the web has in turn given each of us more power and greater guardianship over ourselves....what could be more powerful than that?