It is a truism that the internet is the most effective means humans have developed yet for making connections. But it is a work in progress. Indeed, some have suggested that we will be trying to figure out how to best use the internet for much of the 21st century.
So what is wrong with it? What is all the fuss about? Stripped to the essentials, the internet is a tsunami of data. It offers way, way too much without offering what an individual needs at a given moment in time. It is hugely inefficient when you measure its performance in terms of value added to the user over time.
At least part of the problem is that it is very difficult to match what is needed at any moment in time with the content that meets the need. Search is a nice first attempt. But search only works when you already know what you are looking for and when others offer that thing. It does not help you formulate your decisions about what to search for. Nor does it help providers refine what they offer. In both senses, search is ad hoc, rather than systematic.
Platforms offer different possibilities. In the platform ecology, one can structure a dynamic conversation that over time focuses on a given set of issues. Generating conversation (let’s call it the social web) helps make the back and forth more nuanced. It is a nice start.
But platforms so far generally lack three attributes when it comes to knowledge sharing. This article from Quartz by Nihkil Sormad argues why thi sis so. They are not
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Translating these into human terms, we are talking about trustworthy, convenient and au courant content management. A Standford University platform called “SEP” offers a model to make this work in the field of philosophy (See the article for the details). The model is based on expert curation of a steady flow of authoritative writing and commentary.
I like this because it emphasizes significance over scale. By way of contrast, Facebook and Twitter and the other currently popular platforms scale over significance. They seek to suck the air out of a given field rather than guarantee value added to content development.
At the end of the day, the content that is generated, though, is the “McGuffin”. It is the thing that makes the story go forward. That story, I would argue, is about individual empowerment. And so we await platforms that offer deep significance for that purpose.