Digital Maoism Revisited

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Jaron Lanier in typically excellent form, continuing the theme started in his fine article for I think that he repeats his earlier mistake of considering many different forms of collective behaviour to be the same (Wikipedia’s dynamics are not remotely similar to stock market-like systems), but his central point is good: we urgently need to understand how crowds can be wise, and what makes them stupid.

Lanier’s warning of the danger that information technology can lock in cultural or behavioural patterns is dead right and unsurprising. In any system, choices we make earlier will constrain the choices we can make later. However, the nature of the computer as not only a tool but also the medium and the environment on which the tool works leads to an almost paradoxical problem that is seldom encountered in other systems. Not only may we get tied into formats, paradigms and habits created by the software, but the software becomes our virtual landscape, the context in which other behaviours occur, and thus its influence is pervasive and huge.
Created:Mon, 31 Dec 2007 14:49:09 GMT

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

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