I like this piece as a closure to our opening ‘Cyberculture’ block. Written by Jimmy Wales, the starter of Wikipedia, it underplays ‘fake news’ in a too-simple binary, an oil-and-water distinction set against “reliable information”.
News is always political, always complex. This piece acknowledges the complexity of the web, but overplays the simplistic agency of “we, as consumers and institutions” – and underplays the complexity of ‘news’.
For instance, the two YouTube videos I feature on an earlier post both begin with a picture of Donna Haraway with a dog. At least, they tell me they do. But I’ve never met DH – how can I tell this is her, and not simply a picture one person has used, and another copied?
My example here is deliberately minor. It’s intended to show the multi-threaded complexity behind what makes up ‘fake news’. Or, in educational terms, ‘erroneous learning’, or learning based on fake data. I’m not sure how, as a ‘consumer’, I could check everything like this.
Can one trust cloud sourcing? To a degree. But not completely. Wikipedia is part-solution, part-problem. ‘Openness’ and ‘transparency’ only work if: (a) people are looking (as opposed to simply, rapidly and unreflectively consuming); and (b) can see – both in the sense of transparency and understanding, and, also, a suitable degree of scepticism. Although I’d hate to try and define what would be a suitable degree in a fast-changing, multi-headed digital sphere.
In conclusion, the call for the (re)turn to open spaces on the Internet looks Canute-like, looks nostalgic, and looks over-optimistic given where we now are. It reminds me of Knox’s three periods within his historiography, and their resourcefulness for those wanting to construct narratives.
Critical narratives can’t just fall back on to what used to work, however. I fear Jimmy Wales has missed the boat here. Educationalists, too, need to avoid uncritical nostalgia for what used to work, perhaps in their youth. We will see the complex opportunities, and complex nuances, perhaps a little more clearly, as we move on into ‘Community Cultures’.