Open Source

Wikimedia – media for all

A good media report is such that whatever opinion you hold about the topic, you’ll find the report supporting your point of view. I think the Dutch documentary “The Truth According To Wikipedia” does exactly this.

In the video Ndesanjo Macha makes some excellent remarks being same time amused, cynical, despairing and hopeful. If you are busy – as you probably are – just jump to those parts where he is talking. You may learn something.

In Andrew Keens’ comments – which I have found in most cases rather unsophisticated, both in form and content – there is one point I agree with. A lot of activity online is nowadays extremely egocentric. I think this is partly a result of the online culture moving from the “IRC / newsgroup / discussion board internet” to the “blog internet”. In the blog internet it is always me talking to you – not us having a conversation. The absurdity of this is that same time Mr. Keen is worried that with the new internet people do not anymore follow authorities telling them the truth.

Like always the issue is not that simple. The possibility to write a blog, and this way report about topic you find interesting is important. I think the egocentrism in the blogs is simply representing our egocentric culture. The blogs are just as egocentric as we are.

What it comes to the Wikipedia, I see it much more to be part of the “old old internet”, “IRC / newsgroup / discussion board internet”, the place where you do things together and the common objective is more important than the personalities doing it.

After saying this, here are the slides from my talk in the Helsinki Media Conference about two weeks ago. I was talking right after Andrew Keen’s another rant, where he, for instance, called bloggers and citizen journalists monkeys. This is a great example of the form and content of his talk.

I don’t know why in the slideshare version some pictures are missing and there is just a frame. You may imaging to the frame the Wikipedia ball.

My point, however, in the talk was that among small cultures, like in Finland, free knowledge is extremely important and one of the backbones of peaceful and wellbeing societies. When people have access to media, when they have a voice and they can participate they can learn and change the world they are living in. Lack of media (now in the meaning of a space where we may have a discourse), results as lack of education, results as many things that suck.

Many things in Finland do not suck at all. We do not have a lot of poverty, very little abuse, no civil conflict since 1918, and last time we were in a war more than 50 years ago. We are doing pretty well. These are the good times and the future looks bright.

What we should remember is that what we have today in Finland is all build on one kind of free knowledge and some people’s willingness to “save” Finnish language. The first publishers in Finland were not interested in to make money but to give a voice for the people in their own language. This all took place something like 150 years ago when most of the Finnish people were still living in cabins without chimneys or windows (and now I talk about the transparent thing in a wall, not an operating system). These poor, “simple”, non-educated people were seen as valuable sources of knowledge with their poems, songs, traditions and wisdom. All this is still the foundation of the Finnish culture, art and science.

For instance, many people – especially in the English-speaking world – find it strange that in Finland we publish scientific journals in Finnish (with the population of 5 million). It doesn’t look very “economical”, especially when all the scientists are able to read and write in English, too. Publishing in Finnish, however, makes it possible to teach science in schools in Finnish and that is where the new scientists are growing. Later in their life many of them will also learn to communicate in English. So, if we want to have science in Finland we must do it in Finnish.

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