E-neeway I thought a bit of naïveté might help generate some contributions CALMwise
I continue to think that we should return to our dreams, learn from the nightmares that some of them became, and start e-visioning what the post-Sanger-Wales era in Computer-Aided Learning Media (CALM) ought to look like. That was The Big Idea that I had in mind here, so I may spend some time sorting the wit from the chafe and trying to get this line of inquiry back on course. Jon Awbrey
Unfit for purpose or Unfit purpose
In Wikipedia’s case both conditions are probably true. The meshing of wiki software with J.Wales’ half conceived ambitions was little more than a marriage of convenience, and was most certainly not an explicit design decision. What the Wiki mythologists have presented as a happy serendipity looks increasing like design redundancy as Wikipedia takes on an ever more tired appearance when compared to the rest of the Interweb.
Proposition (1): The primary sensory advantage of the internet is that it can deliver ‘visual’ communication.
Consequence for communication projects: Whilst text is (for most people) accessed visually, text is a very limited part of the spectrum of visual communication employed by human beings, yet Wiki as used by Wikipedia participants is essentially a text manipulation tool. Wiki has proved effective in the production of millions of lines of text, but text is a very poor ‘stand alone’ medium for effective communication.
Consequence for Wikipedia: Wikipedia has been successful in attracting contributors who value text, who are adept at deriving information from text and who wish to create text, the Wikipedia model is essentially one of word creation as a defining objective, without any broader reference to communication – including ‘learning’. Text creation in Wikipedia is presented as being of itself ‘communication’, yet graphical presentation which is essential to ‘illustrate’ text is available only in limited and static form on Wikipedia. Even in this limited use, text is used to illuminate the graphic content rather than graphics being used to illuminate the text. This reversal of the opportunity provided by the medium (internet) for expansive graphical communication has accentuated a split between text and graphic in Wikipedia, where graphics (primarily photographs) are iconised in lists (Wikimedia Commons) compiled separately from the creation of text, in a process of emulation of dead tree publishings ‘image libraries’. On Wikipedia, when ‘imported’ to illustrate the ‘encyclopaedia’ these images frequently stand as distractive and/or pornographic because they are disjuncted from the primary function of text creation predicated by the Wiki software.
Proposition (2): A project, the aim of which is to use the internet to achieve communication, including learning functions, where the intention is to optimise the available communicational capacity, would be structured around the application of visual facility.
Consequence for communication projects: Maximising visual facility would require easy translation of text/number to graphical representation. Graphics such as charts and graphs are readily translated from text/number and such translation can be made available on an interactive basis. More complex graphics, video, photographs, drawings etc can be given enhanced interactivity be providing the viewer with controls over perspective, 360 degree rendering etc.
Implications for ‘a future encyclopaedia’: Existing net based encyclopaedias have done little more than reproduce ‘dead tree’ models in digitised format. A ‘future encyclopaedia’ making full use of available technological resources would be essentially interactive and visually/graphically driven. The editing of such a project, whether or not participatory, would likely be most effectively achieved through software which emulates the end user interactive function where graphic and text manipulation is part of a single process. Both creator/editor, and end user would be facilitated to generate page/tab/article versions, in the case of the end user these versions would be limited to their own work space, but the operative software would be common to creator/editor and user.