Almost Intelligent

If You Are Here You Took A Wrong Turn On The Internet

Sue Gardner Gives Dalton Camp Lecture

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Although she might not be a household name, the organization she represents certainly is. Sue Gardner is the executive director of Wikimedia, whose umbrella encompasses over a dozen projects including the immensely popular Wikipedia.

 The lecture was entitled “The Changing Media Landscape”. Gardner discussed the place of user generated content in a media world whose future seems increasingly uncertain. Most of the rhetoric  in this era’s media upheaval has centred around the conflict between the old establishement way of doing things and the new user-generated “free media.”

  As the head of arguably the largest new media organization in the world, one would expect Gardner to be firmly on the side that believes we are seeing a fundamental shift in the way news is generated and consumed. One would be wrong. A former journalist herself, Gardner does not see the divide between new and old to be as sharp as some have supposed.

“I always see myself as working in the same world, for the same purpose”, she said in the lecture.

Where many in the media world have been trumpeting (or bemoaning) the collapse of traditional media values, Gardner sees our current era as a “Golden Age” for journalism. Her reasoning for this is based largely on the fact that while the technology delivering the news has changed, the nature of the people consuming it is the same today as it was fifty, or a hundred years ago.

“All the tools allow us to become is more of what we want to be anyway,” she said.

One of the major criticisms levelled at open-content sites and the internet generally is that it allows people to immerse themselves only in those ideas they agree with, creating a kind of echo chamber. In their worst forms, these echo chambers are gathering places for the dregs of human ideas.

 “This is worrying,” said Gardner, “but it is a human truth, not just an online thing.”

Gardner sees the rise of Wikipedia as a prime example of the great advantages and potential pitfalls of her Golden Age. She sees more information, and more quality information, being made available to more people. While this has been seen as a problem, “information overload” will be compensated for by people developing filters to sort the information, and to decide which information can be trusted.

“One of the lessons of Wikipedia is not to put absolute trust in anything.”


Written by Colin Hodd

April 15, 2010 at 3:42 PM

Posted in Print

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