Wikimania, media, and accessibility

There is a socio-technological irony in terms of the accessibility of what many are calling free culture. If oral cultures, or communities that have low literacy rates are to participate or be included in the fervour of free culture, then they will require a richer media environment. In a nutshell (and we can unpack it if you’d like), the training, tools and bandwidth needed for this rich media environment are less accessible to the very groups who need them most to participate.

I listened to Lawrence Lessig speak about free culture at Wikimania today. It was evangelical and idealistic (though still quite good). I think when anything is wrapped in the words “freedom” or “free”, that Americans react differently from other people. Perhaps it’s because the word is ubiquitous in their enculturation.

It’s all very glossy, this comparison of Wikimania to Woodstock. It would seem downright tacky if this conference were hosted at my home university. But Harvard is a very particular sort of place (more about that later, oh boy). Wikipedia’s a significant movement, but the real value is in fleshing out the particulars in the personal meetups and in the breakout sessions, like the one I’m in right now.

It’s a great conference, but it’s no Woodstock. In the big talks, I don’t see anyone getting high on anything save their own collective delusions.

I’m tempted to go all Hunter S Thompson on them.

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