To their credit, both Lanier and Surowiecki identify the particular situations where aggregation is most useful. I’d like to nominate one more: open access publishing. I think that disciplines that adopt open access models will be evolutionarily more successful than those that fail to. It is much easier to vet quality and to build consensus (or structure controversy) when everything can be accessible to everyone.
Think, for instance, of how this discussion on the wisdom of crowds will progress. I would love to discuss Jeremy Waldron’s brilliant article on Aristotle’s concept of the Wisdom of the Multitude, but it’s on closed-access JStor. I’m not bothering to download it --not because it would be hard to do so, but because it’s not accessible to everyone. As a moral matter, I want to cite to things that can be accessed by, say, average citizens in less developed countries, independent scholars unaffiliated with universities, curious autodidacts, etc….not just fellow academics at relatively wealthy institutions.
Both this blog’s founder (Michael Madison) and Yochai Benkler help us see how that ethic of egalitarianism leads not to anarchy but to more benign things like quality control. Madison predicts that eventually
[o]pen access can create a working prestige economy if scholarly publication is standardized to a format that permits scholars in the relevant discipline to develop a digital “tagging” specification. Works in open access archives can be “tagged,” classified, and rated along various dimensions by scholars, and the result would be a kind of dynamic, searchable, shareable, bottom-up post-publication form of peer review.
Peter Suber at 7/11/2006 09:48:00 AM.
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.