Today I presented “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything” by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams at my graduate reading seminar. I created a simple mindmap as seen above, as a way of navigating the text and drawing out more thoughts during discussion. On the aesthetic level, the book is arranged under a series of themes, where collections of relevant case studies are cited. The authors then suggest business values we could learn from them.
As you will be able to tell, Wikinomics runs polar to Andrew Keen’s “The Cult of the Amateur” as well as Jaron Lanier’s “Digital Maoism“. While the latter folks speak about the hazards of the online collectivism, Wikinomics runs on a high with optimism about our new world of online collaboration and crowdsourcing.
While we do not need to subscribe to either truths, what these books do well is to provoke discussion on how life online might have transformed. As I’ve warned before, being collectively intelligent doesn’t always lead us to do the “right” thing. While the platform openness and smartmobbing might be the order of the day, neither of such attributes guarantees any basis for ethics or moral.
It’s easy to derive pleasure using the multitude of free web services online, and to miss the possible exploitative agenda at hand. Perhaps we feel safety in numbers? As one my friends duly noted, even if users develop an awareness of their immediate surroundings, they might not turn as quickly. For example, the traction of established friendships in social networks such as Facebook means that you might have increased your threshold in trading off your time by clicking through countless messages, notifications and apps with your already scarce attention. Likewise, I personally view Wikinomics as a neat playbook for new businesses, but on a hypercritical level, I see it as an unnerving act of repurposing of collective goodwill (e.g. Linux), for greater profit.
Will we know when the line is crossed? Is “having fun so long as it doesn’t hurt me” acceptable for us to live by?