Why this is serious business The history of human civilization has been overwhelmingly shaped by the nature of, and marked by radical change on developments in, communication technology. I would argue that communication technology is the main thing that distinguishes humanity from other species. Because of that, I think that every change in communication technology is a significant event in human history.
The internet constitutes major changes in the way humans with access to it relate to information, and it's one of my favorite topics to think about.
The thing people most frequently discuss when talking about Wikipedia is the fact that anyone can edit it, and I think that's important, but I don't think it's the most revolutionary thing about Wikipedia. It's been a very long time since it was extremely difficult to get your information in print, and it's never been the case that the primary thing that got a person access to information production was that person's credentials on the subject.
Information aggregation isn't really done by experts in the subjects being aggregated about. Reporters are almost invariably not experts on what they report on. Wikipedia has an amount of bad information on it. But I honestly don't think it's more bad information than newspapers or encyclopedias. I sincerely think it's probably a lot less.
That said, Wikipedia is still more significant than just traditional encyclopedias, transposed online. The wiki aspect of Wikipedia, on one of the biggest collections of information in the world, is really a huge leap.
The text of Wikipedia is thoroughly hyperlinked. Most paragraphs in any given article have several key pieces of information linked to the other pages. In this way, Wikipedia provides the maximum possible amount of context, presenting information much more in perspective.
Video has been one of the biggest changes in the way humans can collect, document and distribute information in history. It's much more immersive than text, and, for better or worse, it manages much more effectively to connect more directly to the subconscious and emotional thought processes than text is capable of doing.
But it's always had a major drawback -- or, at least, a drawback regarding its utility as a medium of information transmission. With film, it's impossible to jump around in the stream of information. On video, it's difficult. On DVDs, it's clunky.
On YouTube, however, there's a little red bar along the bottom of the video. The short-length format, the speed of streaming, and the clickable progress bar, creates the first major option in video communication for real random access, in the way books offer.
In this episode of CrashCourse, Hank Green explores the advantages in this format over traditional educational options.
Next week I'll be writing about information equality and what the internet means for the future of education and civilization.