The technical conditions of communication and information processing are enabling the emergence of new social and economic practices of information and knowledge production.1
You may have read Yochai Benkler’s book, The Wealth of Networks, where he discusses Wikipedia as an example of commons-based peer-production. Did you know that you can see this relatively new model of knowledge and economic production live, in real-time? The video below is just one minute of Wikipedia edits recorded from the live changes on the irc.wikimedia.org #en.wikipedia channel. Using the IRC channel, you can watch Wikipedia being created as it happens, which means you can see the incremental production of collective knowledge as it happens. I recommend full-screen HD to see the detail as it passes up your screen. There are different channels for the different language versions. I chose the English version.
The Wikimedia site provides detailed statistics about the use of their sites, although the English Wikipedia statistics stop at October 2006 Perhaps there’s just too much activity on that site for them to collect and measure?
A lot of people still have an aversion to Wikipedia, but I don’t think they get it. Wikipedia is completely open to anyone to contribute. If you don’t think it’s good enough,2 isn’t it your (moral?) responsibility to correct and improve it? Like it or not, as a single source, it has by far the widest reach of any web-based learning resource and although I don’t have the time to substantiate this, I bet that after Google, it’s the second online resource that students visit when beginning their research.3 If you challenge what’s happening on Wikipedia, you’re fighting a losing battle. Stop complaining and start contributing!
Personally, I watch the Wikipedia edits rolling up my screen, seeing contributions as they happen from individuals I’ll never know and am filled with optimism. Each edit is underwritten by a Creative Commons license which protects and preserves this body of knowledge for perpetuity. If there were world heritage sites on the Internet, Wikipedia would surely be the first to be recognised as such.