We the economy

The theoretical basis of wikinomics is not new.  And it is not revolutionary.  Inventions that have greatly impacted society and created new verbiage tend to be met with similar hope for (or fear of) a paradigm shift that will topple the elite and allow for the voice of the masses.  The printing press.  The radio.  And now, the world of wiki.  Each of these has indeed shifted the power structure, but only shifted.  Heads of State and CEOs remain, and the voice of the people is only as a whisper when we are at our loudest.

“We the people” already hold the potential for a great deal of power; we just haven’t understood the power we hold.  Americans buy things everyday and drive our economy and that of the rest of the world.  And yet, we continue to ignore the fact that our dollars are our voice.  The internet is a new forum for us to express our power, but it is not the only way.  Just as our collective dollars drive our economy, our collective brain-power (in the form of wikis) has great potential to drive it as well. 

I find the authors’ (of Wikinomics) attempts to maneuver through their description of mass collaboration quite interesting.  They, like so many others, are so afraid of the word and idea of communism that they must debunk any potential attributes immediately, lest they be labeled communists.  Communism, like anarchy, are both such loaded terms that the authors cannot even publicly recognize that there are, of course, elements of both within mass collaboration. 

Mass collaboration—as a movement, so to speak—has instead adopted words like “collaboration” and “open.”  Both of these words, as the authors point out, have positive connotations.  “Peering” is also a perfectly positive word, even if inherently unrealistic.  Peering, one of the four principles of wikinomics, tries to transcend our human need for hierarchy.  I do not assume that there are no viable alternatives to hierarchy, as the authors suggest, I just believe it is human nature to fall into hierarchical patterns.  As with communism, “though egalitarianism is the general rule, most peer networks have an underlying structure, where some people have more authority and influence than others” (25).  We will always identify the natural leaders in the group and recognize that certain people have strengths that we do not have, and this is how hierarchy is created…even online.

The technology that allows for open source and wiki-ing is not revolutionary; it has built upon itself for years and developed into a form that has immense potential.  The desire for people to collaborate and explore and think and be challenged is also not revolutionary.  So, while we have seemingly ventured upon a new horizon in human history, I believe it is just another mountain we have climbed.

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