“Commons Knowledge” could it become the new source of Knowledge?

If we examine the developments we went through in our modern history, we will find that the biggest leap of all is the one that took place in the mid twentieth century with the innovation of computers and again in the nineties when the internet became available for everyone. In her book Alternative and Activist Media, Leah Lievrouw asserts that “The internet has grown beyond its initial mode as a vast library and document repository into something more like a cultural festival in which anyone can perform, contribute, comment, and debate”.  With the development of internet practices also become more available to people what can be called Commons Knowledge. Commons knowledge offers an alternative to the traditional knowledge creation which we are more often exposed to through schools or colleges, from experts or various institutions. Today how this knowledge is created, distributed and filtered has taken one step ahead.

Whether this new commons knowledge is a good thing or not, I think a great example that well explains this term is Wikipedia, it is an open source knowledge database where anyone from anywhere can contribute, add or edit the information pages on its website. A question that should be asked how reliable as a source of information Wikipedia could be? The answer I think is “it will never be fully reliable” but it will still remain as a reference where people go to seek information. But Why? I think the answer to this has two folds; first the assumption that the contributors to Wikipedia could have truth in their contributions creates some sorts of reliability in the minds of the readers, even if  it’s not true, second, it’s easy and almost have every kind of information you would want to know. I think if it was not for the internet, meaning if it had another print like form, Wikipedia would’ve been obscure.

What we need to learn is the ability to recognize a good source of information when we seek knowledge otherwise we will doom ourselves to ignorance. Feeding ourselves with unworthy and untrue facts, and this is where the danger from such sources lie, history can easily be misinterpreted, sciences can be falsified.

Can Wikipedia really challenge traditional knowledge ´gatekeepers´?

´Broadly speaking, the most intensive scrutiny has centered on two main issues: Wikipedia’s breathtaking growth and popularity as a basic reference for a remarkably wide sweep of topics in numerous languages; and persistent worries about its quality – its credibility, accuracy, validity, and even (among philosophers) its epistemic value´. (Lievrouw,2011:201)

I think this in a nutshell represents what Wikipedia is nowadays, a source of vast of information of any kind, which but at the same time is a target of long-lasting dilemma whether these information are qualitative enough to compete. I think I am not the only person who on a regular basis visits Wikipedia and goes first to Wikipedia to learn about something unknown. It has became almost routine for Internet users to use Wikipedia, the easy and  encyclopedic way of Wikipedia can give ´information seekers´ as me the starting point to learn. The popularity of Wikipedia may, but in a big portion stem from its commons, being a project of commons knowledge, where knowledge is produced by amateurs and not knowledge ´gatekeepers´ in form of credibilited authors, publishing houses or other traditional links that have the power over knowledge distribution.

On the other hand from my experience during my student life, I many times crossed personal and academic struggle how and if to use Wikipedia as a source of information in my assignment papers or essays. It seems to always come down to the topic of ´not being a trustworthy source´. Thus then when I elaborate about the role of commons knowledge project such as Wikipedia as being a challenge to the traditional institutionalized knowledge and expert authorities as expressed by Lievrouw, it leaves me doubtful. Doubtful about the commons knowledge projects power to rival traditional keepers of knowledge. It makes me question if a collective effort of ordinary people ´information amateurs´ can challenge the dominant means of knowledge institutions. Lievrouw mentions writers who say that collective knowledge enhances the autonomy and liberty of individuals and streghtens democratic practises against technocratic elites, but at the same time he stresses the common issues associated with commons knowledge projects. Firstly Lievrouw says that commons knowledge is volunteer- based, thus it may contribute to the ´free labor´ outlook problem of nowadays creative industries. Secondly that information on websites such as Wikipedia may not be always so democratic, since they also depend on anonymous sources and reproductions of information, thus this leads to the third and for me personally the biggest issue- ´the no guarantee of quality´.

One of the more idealistic ideas about Wikipedia is many times connected to enhancing the democracy with being more free and unbiased source of information than those traditional ones, because it is constituted by a collective effort and not single or priviliged group of professionals. But Wikipedia´s articles are based on many sources some of which include also as their basis ´institutional´ work of some academics, that may already be biased in one direction. Athe same time even the ´amateurs´ itself go in their contribution process to Wikipedia thought sort of gatekeeping, they pick up some articles while neglecting others.

I think its not possible to 100% proclaim that Wikipedia is an alternative and that is the only thing Wikipedia represents, since it at some point will apply a sort of ´filtering of information´ and apply a more like traditional knowledge gatekeepers policies and rules of how to contribute to the website so the information are not just a collection of any information, but trustworthy ones. I think more what Wikipedia can be if not a sole alternative to other power knowledge sources, at least for me is a good basic starting point of entry into my process of getting new knowledge that can direct me to many other usefull links also outside of Wikipedia. Wikipedia I think thus serves as a complementary source of information to traditional sources and thus go hand in hand with them rather than against them.

The idea of a collective people information production site however more than traditional knowledge gatekeepers serve as a platform for participation. People can be part of information distribution channel as contributors, editors and this certainly does in some ways contribute to free expression, free entry of ideas, any ideas, that would not be possible for an amateur contributor, to  express in or break into the structures of old knowledge gatekeepers. Wikipedia despite of the criticism over bugs of reliability and quality, I think does not take its fame of being one of the top commons knowledge projects, being a big information playground to learn, discover and participate. I am sure next time I will encounter any unknown term I will again not hesitate to search for it on Wikipedia, as I believe will do many other Internet users daily.

Reference:

Lievrouw, L. (2011) Alternative and Activist Media. Cambridge: Polity Press

Digital Storytelling the New Way of Self Expression

Long through the history of mankind we have been able to preserve our heritage or culture through stories more often told by the elders in the community and passed through generation to generation, many of them has evolved and changed where they become a legend or a myth. Of course, the kind of story I am talking about here is not the professional literary written and then printed kind of a story, I am talking about that intimate kind of story that talks about personal experiences, a story told by an individual about what he is going through or something about his surroundings, it is a story that’s is usually neglected within the literary industry.

Today, this storytelling has evolved to digital storytelling, it’s no longer a word of mouth. With the video recording technologies we have today, one can document his own history; we no longer have to know only about famous people such as politicians, actors, kings or queens. Today with digital storytelling the ordinary individual has been given a voice to make his own story heard, I think this would become the biggest reservoir of world history that human kind can generate for the future generations. With digital storytelling, people will share their lives experiences whether they are intimate or ordinary, they get to say their own point of view without the filtering or the projection and twisting of a second party which used to be the person documenting or writing a biography.

I think this digital storytelling will open new doors and shut others, at one hand it will allow people to tell their story from their own perspective, on the other hand, biographers may become out of business, also I think it will challenge the celebrity culture that’s adopted by mainstream media, we no longer just have to hear about the American singer Beyounce’s problems or how the British scientist Steven Hawking got to overcome obstacles despite his disability. We now can hear the story of a small refugee kid who had to flee his country, or a woman who has a medical condition that she has to live with the rest of her life. The digital storytelling has risen self-expression and widened the pole for people to be exposed to others stories to learn more about each other, and this is why I think it can be a counter attempt toward the celebrity industry and reality shows we see in mainstream media. And it will also bring people closer together since they can now relate to each other and find more commonalities between one another.

I think it is imperative that digital storytelling maintain its feature of being the voice of the ordinary person and not to be highjacked by big corporates and mainstream media. Its strength comes from its objectivity and projecting perspectives that otherwise would have been ignored.

Digital storytelling: Mapping human stories

Stories are all around us and they constitute our life. We encounter people to get to know them also though their story of life, while we at the same time uncover our own personal stories, that had an impact on our life to other people. And the basic assumption of digital storytelling is exactly that, that everyone has a story to tell and that those stories are powerful. In our stories we may remember an unforgetable moment of finding the true love of our life, but then…It may be a story about a dear person that…It may be the vacation when you were a child when suddenly…All of these stories make sense of who we are.

As said by Lambert: ´The story become a way to find, if not a re-statement of rooted identity, at least a new center of gravity.´ Further as his experiences during the workshops of Center for Digital Storytelling, he says the re-telling of an incident of trauma, or a situation of achievement, or even a seemingly mundane interaction is made to service the establishment of new equilibrium – a homeostasis – in the storyteller’s sense of self. Thus that the the telling of story can serve for the storyteller as a form of therapy. And then when we move from the moment of the  narrative of the story and combine it with the latest technology, we may grasp that even a at first ordinary story may via images, videos or graphics create a complex picture of the story. All the possible combinations of visuals, sound and the narrative can give the story the essence, bring the story alive, make it more emotional, highlight the uniqueness of the story.

Furthermore even a single individual story can have the impact to be related to a much larger issue, in short digital story can be part of a larger community of people that can relate to the message of the story. And this is one of the aspect why the digital storytelling can be adopted to be a newer form of media engagement. As Lambert says digital storytelling is to support of construction of a healthy individual identity and moving on from the dysfuntional views of dominant media that count on shaping our desires and fears and reshape our identiy as Homo consumerus. And Burgess highlight also the diferentiation point of digitall storytelling to a documentary:

´Digital Storytelling as a ‘movement’ is explicitly designed to amplify the ordinary voice. It aims not only to remediate vernacular creativity, but to legitimate it as a relatively autonomous and worthwhile contribution to public culture. This marks it as an important departure from even the most empathetic ‘social documentary’ traditions.´

The workshop that Mr.Lambert and his colleagues in the Center for Digital Storytelling do is to use the digital options nowadays that are affordable such as video editing tools and publishing and distribution platforms that internet offers such as Vimeo of Youtube to emphasize the participatory media practices. One of the other feature of digital storytelling is that by telling a story digitally the storyteller can learn new digital skills. The differentiating point about a documentary and a digital story is that it is being narratited in the first voice by the storyteller itself. This way most of the stories from Makers, the largest collection of women stories is being produced. The women storytellers in this video are there to serve as an ispiration and maybe motivation, such as the story of Katherine G. Johnson, the NASA mathematician, who grow up in times where for African American girls the options were being a nurse or a teacher. Her story as other stories in on the website thought this stories celebrate women and empower others. Similarly the Bristol stories project releases digital stories about various themes from different people that come from Bristol, thus made by local people that tell their stories about people, places and events that are important to them.

Reference:

Lambert, J. (2013) Digital Storytelling: Capturing lives, creating community, New York: Routledge

Burgess, J. (2006) Hearing Ordinary Voices: Cultural studies, Vernacular Creativity and Digital Storytelling in Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 20 (2):pp 201-2014
http://eprints.qut.edu.au/6243/1/6243.pdf