This weeks readings, Chapter 5 in Clay Shirkey’s Book, Here Comes Everybody, and Michael Bauwen’s article, “The Social Web and its Social Contracts” both deal with how the social web has created a new kind of form of interaction that has been jointly agreed upon by those who use the web. These social contracts are implicit and for the most part not expressly written but they form a new way of interaction on the web and in our society as a whole. Each writer also talks about how user interaction creates this new form of communication or societal contracts.
In his article, “The Social Web and it’s Social Contracts”, Michael Bauwens talks about how the basis for the web and many of its uses, such as chatrooms and blogs, are built on a underlying social contract that according to him is actually quite stable, even if it is somewhat implied and there are not any real written rules per se. Bauwens believes that internet users allow themselves to have their “attention to be monetized through advertising” because we enjoy the facilities of the internet so much and understand that it is in a sense the fair trade that we must give to use the qualities of the internet that we so value. Bauwens also says though, that we will only permit this fair exchange if it does not stop the ease with which we use the facilities of the Internet that we so enjoy and if that exchange does interrupt our favorite qualities of the Internet we as a society of Internet users will revolt and move elsewhere.
In chapter 5 of “Here Comes Everybody”, Clay Shirkey talks also about social web and the contracts that are in a way inherent within the Internet. Shirky specifically talks about Wikipedia and how it affects the notion of social contracts on the web. Nupedia was the original idea for Wikipedia or behind Wikipedia, however Nupedia failed, paving the way for Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s success may be due to fixing part of the reason that Nupedia failed. Nupedia had an extremely long review process by the owners of the website before posts were approved. Wikipedia has extremely quick updates by users and very little review process, which has also been the subject of complaints as well as admiration. Complaints often stem from the notion that early on in Wikipedia’s popularity, it was often thought of as being extremely faulty because of the little amount of review that each post was submitted to. Wikipedia was orignally created by the inventors of Nupedia, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, wanted to create a free version of the higher end Nupedia. Wikipedia eventually became much more successful.
The name Wikipedia comes from the idea of Wiki’s which were small user-edited sites that were originally conceived and created in the mid 1990’s. The creator felt that users would want to have the control of editing and that they would innately trust others with the editing process. Namely one’s peers. After originally using wiki’s to work on rough drafts for Nupedia, Sanger and Wales gave wikipedia is own address and the site blew up, far surpassing the site visits and power of Nupedia. Wikipedia is completely user generated and controlled. A person can decide to create an entry for something, that is edited by peers of course, and then further entries are created off that. Thus the notion of a wikipedia race mentioned in other posts is created. According to Shirky, Wikipedia is able to “aggregate individual and often tiny contributions, hundreds of millions of them annually, made by millions of contributors, all performing different functions” (Shirkey 118). Wikipedia entries are a shared work. Everyone contributes on them and they are never fully done. Each person adds or edits it using what they know or what information they have links to. In this way it is a truly collaborative group project, which works because the users actually have to care about the “product” that is being turned out. For me, it would seem surprising that Wikipedia has been successful as it has been, maybe it is just the skeptic in me but, I would feel that there are enough people out there that don’t really care to make the information unreliable. But apparently, the participants are extremely committed to the outcomes, as Shirky would say.