A deep forest
A deep forest with no limits. Feeding the world with its oxygen and beauty. Mysterious, attractive, diverse, fragile, sometimes dangerous. That’s what the web is like. Populated with a billion of users, with languages difficult to understand, curious values and obcure agendas. How fascinating !
Many will cautiously approach the web by picking up a leaf and inspecting it closer. Maybe the first leaf will be a youtube video link sent by a friend. Then, they will grab a leaf from another tree and this one will be a collection of images of their grand-children. Another leaf might be a Wikipedia page found thanks to Google. And little by little, the visitor will learn which trees he prefers. Some will start an account on myspace, others will become wikipedians, yet others will find fullfillment in creating a blog, this one will create his personal file on LinkedIn, and that one will buy land in SecondLife, and yet that other one will have fun with Twitter. The choices are numerous and more are to come.
After a while, the user will look beyond the leaves and the trees and will start considering the forest itself and perhaps discover an entire ecosystem, the circle of the participatory Web.
Users collaboratively create content on wikis. They get informed of what is created thanks to RSS feeds. Blogs enable users to react to content created by others, further creating content. Social bookmarking will make it possible for users to share with others what they are reading, and to learn about what others are reading. Social networking will enable users to discover more about the other users. The circle is closed.
Upon starting to look at the forest with this fresh eye, the user may start to see what is missing. Improved search capabilities certainly, which will be either through creation of more communities of practices, or better categorization and semantic search. Also, whilst the circle of text-based internet is pretty much complete today, it is not the case of the media-rich internet. Searching images is still not working very well. Collaborative editing of videos is still in infancy. Does an audio-based RSS system exist ? Could podcasts be automatically translated in dozen of languages ?
These issues are not what I am going to talk about tomorrow, but I think these points are worth keeping in mind. Simply, there was no tag to qualify a few thoughts I had whilst listening to talks this morning :-)
Tomorrow, I will more specifically focus on wikis and how they can help in the educational process. I’ll try to identify some trends and some of the Web 2.0 issues currently unresolved or very poorly addressed, such as the questions of collective authorship, individual freedom over choice of licenses, or code of conduct in an open environment with limited technical barriers.