The great unwashed ~ and information


In using the phrase ‘the great unwashed’  I’m not referring to the young Steve Jobs, infrequent bathing discussed in the New York Times, or even the rather disparaging term coined by the Victorian novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton ~ who ultimately led to that phrase “it was a dark and stormy night’ being immortalized by none other than Charlie Brown’s dog Snoopy. (You should check out more about comic book legends and the back story to that doggy author)

But for me ‘the great unwashed’ and the proverbial ‘dark and stormy night’ may well be referring to the rubbish tip that is the internet. Wander in there too long, and you will indeed have a dirty mind and body :-)

Seriously though, this is exactly why teachers need to take such a considered approach as to how to integrate technology tools and digital resources into their learning and teaching environments. It’s also why such initiatives as Wikipedia  have served to teach us how to share and participate in the curation of information. Wikipedia has come of age just when we need it to.

That makes perfect sense. Through user-generated efforts, Wikipedia is comprehensive, current, and far and away the most trustworthy Web resource of its kind. It is not the bottom layer of authority, nor the top, but in fact the highest layer without formal vetting. In this unique role, it therefore serves as an ideal bridge between the validated and unvalidated Web.

Teachers have also been using tools like Diigo and Evernote to show students how to ‘annotate’ the web and share information. While this works well on the smaller scale, it does not match the venture that Wikipedia represents.

Shared on Twitter, Hypothes.is may well be the next phase in making sense of the great unwashed information environment that is the internet. Of course, like any venture it might fail – but I think Hypothes.is is one to watch for now. Imagine…

If wherever we encountered new information, sentence by sentence, frame by frame, we could easily know the best thinking on it.

If we had confidence that this represented the combined wisdom of the most informed people–not as anointed by editors, but as weighed over time by our peers, objectively, statistically and transparently.

If this created a powerful incentive for people to ensure that their works met a higher standard, and made it perceptibly harder to spread information that didn’t meet that standard.

Peanuts image: source Gary Ware
Texture image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by SnaPsi Сталкер