Wikimedia 2030: enlightenment and education in the digital world

Wikimedia movement is in the middle of (global) discussion to consider its future. There are many ways to participate to the discussion. The Wikimedia 2030 site is one of them.

For the Wikimedia 2017 conference the strategy team got together “A draft of the Wikimedia movement’s strategic direction”. We are all invited to comment and to give feedback on it. Here is my (Canadian) nickel.

The draft document starts with the sentence:

The strategic direction of the Wikimedia movement for 2030 is to become the roads, bridges, and villages that support the world’s journey towards free knowledge.

I understand that the “roads”, “bridges” and “villages” are metaphors and are referring to the Wikimedia’s role of providing global infrastructure to create and share “free knowledge”. Fair enough. I assume the “Wikimedia movement” in the same opening sentence is the people — a core of any movement. The expression, however, makes me ask should the community be at first and the most building the infrastructure?

If not an infrastructure project, what is Wikimedia? I would define it to be three things:

(1) Wikimedia is an enlightenment movement

(2) Wikimedia is an education movement

(3) Wikimedia is an internet movement

Lets take a closer look of these three in the context of the Wikimedia 2030 strategy.

(1) Wikimedia is an enlightenment movement

One way to formulate the “strategic direction” could be to rely strongly to the Wikimedia movement’s vision. From it we could then imaging how would be the world 2030 where we are close(r) to achieve the vision — a world were we have made some progress. The Wikimedia vision is:

Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That’s our commitment. Wikimedia Vision

Building on the vision, the first sentence of the strategic direction 2030 of the Wikimedia could be formulated as follows:

The strategic direction of the Wikimedia movement for 2030 is to serve half (or 1/4, 1/3 ?) of the world population in their needs to share and access reliable and self-correcting knowledge.

Using the words “reliable and self-correcting knowledge” (I am not a native English speaker, so there is maybe a better way to express the idea) we would make it clear that Wikimedia is continuity of the enlightenment movement where scientific method, reliability, validity and especially the self-correcting nature of knowledge are central. Wikipedia (and other Wikimedia projects) is never ready, because the science is progressive.

From the enlightenment we also get the idea of natural law, human rights, equality, diversity, respect of cultures and so on. It is all in there.

(2) Wikimedia is an education movement

From the Wikimedia we can recognize practices that are common for all great educational systems: they are free and inclusive, everyone can have an impact in them (edit) and last but not least it, they rely on “reliable and self-correcting knowledge”. The role of being and education movement comes clear in the Wikimedia mission statement, too:

The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally. Wikimedia Mission statement

As an education movement we aim to empower and engage people effectively and globally.

When the Wikimedia mission was written (2007?), already there were “fake news” and “misinformation” online, but its impact to the society was marginal. To respond to this development, we should be even more education movement that ever before.

Distributing educational content is not enough, unfortunately. We should have a greater impact to people’s ability to understand what is knowledge and how it is created. People who do not vaccinate their children, because they are afraid that vaccines include chemicals, are not stupid. They are uneducated.

People come-up with silly and dangerous ideas because they do not know how knowledge is created. When you have an idea of the “reliable and self-correcting knowledge” you are more likely to make a right conclusions on information found online. This may sound trivial (and it of course is for most of us reading this blog), but this kind of lack of education is a reason of most, if not all, the problems of our time.

It looks that disseminating knowledge is not enough. As an educational movement Wikimedia could do much more by raising people awareness on how knowledge is created. Editing is knowledge creation. Everyone should edit Wikipedia — or well, let say, know how it is done.

Today about 50% of Internet traffic is on “social media”. These are the “village pumps” where people today get their education. How to be the voice of reason in social media services should be high in our list of priorities.

In the current draft document the Wikimedia’s role as an education movement is minimal. If we look to the year 2030 (climate change, migration etc.) we for sure should pay attention to this.

(3) Wikimedia is an internet movement

Somehow the Wikimedia’s role of being and internet movement is also hidden from the draft document. In the first session of the Wikimania, Gabriella Coleman said something like: “when the everyone gets on the Internet, you also get the world’s problems on the Internet”. What we should think, is how do we respond to this?

Internet is the roads, bridges and villages of our time. In the Wikimedia movement we definitely have an interest to care how they are, who owns them and how people can use them. Therefore we must keep on making noice about net neutrality, privacy, anonymity, open standards, open source, free licenses, access etc. For the Wikimedia these are important for obvious reasons.

Decisions on these topics are political. As individuals we also do decisions on things related to these everyday, whatever we are developers, editors or users in the Wikimedia movement.

Thanks for reading.

The vocation of every man and woman is to serve other people.” – Leo Tolstoy

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