Thursday, October 27, 2005

Who owns the wisdom of the crowd? The crowd | BuzzMachine

A very interesting piece by Jeff Jarvis on the economy and significance of collective value in the New Media society. When you, for instance, search on Google and visit a page from it, those results are used by Google to make the search engine more effective for everyone. The issue is, if you or I are doing the work to make someone else's product better then shouldnt' we get paid in some way?
Jarvis answers that we already do; by having a more effective tool in the future to use in our work.

"On the individual level, I want to own or control my stuff, don’t you? That is a given that too many companies and institutions forget. Thus my first law of media and life: Give us control and we will use it. The corollary: Don’t give us control and you will lose us.

So I want to control the things I create: my content (e.g., this blog); my identity (e.g., my addresses); my collections of neat things (e.g., my bookmarks); my analysis (e.g., my tags); my reputation (e.g., my eBay rating), my behavior (e.g., my history, my clicks). What does control mean? I want to be assured that somebody else can’t muck with or kill it. I want to be able to use it wherever I want — and that means I need it to be portable.

I also want to control the things I consume: my content (obviously, I pick the sites, shows, words I take in); my advertising (I’d like transparent targeting… and so should advertisers, because it would be a helluva lot more effective).

Other players may try to get in the way — keeping me form (sic) my stuff, or pushing me to this page instead of that, or showing me this ad because they get paid to do so — but, again, if I ruled my world, this is what I’d want. Less interference means less friction means less inefficiency means greater value… for everybody."

He then goes on to talk about the other two parts of this equation, the "collective," or group of users, and "entities," the creators of products and services that allow this interaction. Jarvis then winds up with an interesting thought that I think kind of encapsulates the optimistic attitude of Web 2.0.

"This is no longer a centralized world, a world controlled by those institutions. This is a decentralized world, a world controlled by us.

And if you try to take control away from us, you will lose. It used to be that you could take control away from us and we had nowhere to go. But in this post-scarcity world, we can always go somewhere else for content or information or service. There’s always another news story, always another email service, always another search engine."

My problem is, to my mind, that this whole network of user-generated influence is based on a very tenuous link, governed by too few people with too much power, whether it's the electricity companies switching off power, telecommunications companies controlling the fiber lines or governments controlling the lot. Should we be able to progress down this line further, all well and good. My question is, will this online mentality of community and shared wisdom translate to the real world, when people are forced away from their screens to interact with their neighbours?

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