Andrew Keen on New Media

The ancient city of dreaming spires embraces the internet generation

The knowledge business is getting wikified. Last week I was at Balliol College at Oxford University with Wikipedia co-founder Dr Larry Sanger to debate the proposition that "the internet is the future of knowledge". And we agreed that today's open-source internet – with its user-generated wikis and blogs – was indeed radically democratising the way in which knowledge is now being created and distributed.

It was ironic, of course, to discuss the democratisation of knowledge in medieval Oxford. That crooked city of narrow doorways, iron gates and ubiquitous walls, after all, is about as democratic as the House of Lords. The old university is a protected, protective community of elites who have, for centuries, monopolised wisdom. Oxford represents the ivory tower business model for knowledge and it's been pretty much the only privileged game in town since 1263 when a wealthy landowner, Lord John de Balliol, founded Balliol, Oxford's founding College.

The two founders of Wikipedia, the erudite Dr Sanger, an epistemology scholar, and his entrepreneurial sidekick, Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales, were neither wealthy nor landowners when they founded their revolutionary digital knowledge site in 2001.

Their inclusive Wikipedia turns exclusive Oxford on its aristocratic head. With its absence of narrow doorways, high walls or locked gates, the open-source Wikipedia – with its 10 million articles in 253 languages created by hundreds of thousands of contributors – is the architectural and pedagogical antithesis of Balliol College.

In contrast with Balliol, any digital citizen can enter the Wikipedia site, anyone can join its intellectual community, anyone can edit anybody else's mistakes. Yes, the knowledge business is getting wikified. Almost 750 years after John de Balliol founded his eponymous college, Sanger and Jimbo Wales might have founded something of equally revolutionary historical significance. Sites like Wikipedia and Sanger's current digital project Citizendium are radically democratising the knowledge business. The peer-to-peer production of open-source information is increasingly becoming mainstream. Even traditional knowledge companies are integrating Web 2.0 tools like wikis, podcasts and blogs into their business and media strategies.

Take, for example, the deal announced in April between the German publisher Bertelsmann and the German language edition of Wikipedia. The Bertelsmann subsidiary Wissen Media are planning to publish 50,000 of Wikipedia's most frequently searched keywords in Wikipedia in a physical book. To be called the "Lexical Yearbook", it will sell for €20 (£16) and should be available in German bookshops by September.

Whereas the Germans are adapting Wikipedia to their own market, the French think that they can outwiki Wikipedia by creating their own version of the open-source knowledge website. Last month, the French publisher Larousse announced its intention to publish a French language open-source with free access to its dictionary and tools to enable users to create their own entries. In America, Google has introduced its own wannabe Wikipedia killer called Knol. And even Britannica, the British born but now US-based encyclopedia, is just about to introduce a seductively interactive new website which includes new editing tools that allow users to suggest updates and revisions to Britannica's content.

The Aussies are getting into the wiki action too. Beginning from the next academic year, high school students in New South Wales will be able to take a course exclusively dedicated to studying Wikipedia. It will become an official part of the "Global Village" elective in the school curriculum and will be designed to familiarize Australian students with using the Wikipedia site for academic research.

But what about Oxford itself? Will the digital trumpets bring down the walls of the ancient university? Perhaps. My discussion with Sanger was held in Oxford Internet Institute – a kind of hi-tech Trojan horse cleverly embedded inside the ancient brick walls of Balliol.

And our audience of Oxford faculty and students was anything but snooty in their enthusiastic appreciation for the democratic potential of the Web 2.0 knowledge revolution.

Even Balliol's powers-that-be seem to get Wikipedia's historical significance. After the debate, Sanger and I had the honour of eating in Balliol's cathedral-like dining hall – one of those Brideshead-style inner sanctums that most ordinary mortals never get to see. After dinner, the robed Master of Balliol spirited Dr Sanger off to illuminate the rest of the Balliol community with the secrets of wiki business. I wonder why. Perhaps Balliol is planning to wikify itself. Perhaps it is planning to make anyone with an internet connection into a college Fellow.

Dance music is beating digital Darwinism law

One of the great ironies of the new media age is that in an environment of digital ubiquity, the physical acquires more and more value. This is particularly true in the music business where, in the midst of the collapse of sales of recorded music, the concert side of the business is extremely healthy. Artists may be struggling to sell copies of their music on plastic, vinyl or digitally, but they are cashing in on gigs and the myriad of spin-off merchandising opportunities.

This truth was underlined to me last week when I attended the International Music Summit (IMS) on the island of Ibiza, an industry get-together of club scene notables in the dance music business. Whereas the traditional music industry is in the doldrums, electronica is experiencing a golden age. This is because the electronica business is less focused on hits than on artists working week-in-week-out as DJs on the dance music circuit.

Also, because the dance music community is more closely knit than the hits-driven music business, digital consumers tend to be more respectful of the intellectual property rights of artists.

Internet piracy, then, tends to be much less of a problem in electronica than it is in mainstream music.

I sat on a panel entitled "Digital Darwinism" at IMS. But the good news is that the struggle for survival is much less Darwinian in electronica than elsewhere in the music business. Examples of flourishing and profitable dance music websites include DJDownload.com and Beatport.com.

Electronica has much to teach the rest of the music world and mainstream labels need to take note of the club scene. Like me, they might even subject themselves to the hardship of a late May trip to Ibiza to do some primary research on the one sector of the music business where things remain incredibly exciting.

Rumour and innuendo without delay

Fancy assembling your own raw broadcast news? A new American website, LiveNewsCameras.com, gives internet viewers direct web feeds from 150 television stations from America and overseas including ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. So now you'll get the breaking news of car crashes, terrorist bombs and homicides at the very same moment as the networks.

Borrowing words from Seneca's version of Oedipus, LiveNewsCameras.com's motto is "veritas odit moras" which translates as "truth hates delay". Is that really true though? I suspect, instead, that truth actually depends on delay for verification and clarification from trained journalists who are able to contextualise breaking news. Without delay, I fear, truth will be replaced by rumour, innuendo and confusion.

ak@ajkeen.com

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Fernando Torres has not scored in 266 minutes of pre-season for Chelsea
football
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
Travel
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
News
The will of Helen Beatrix Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, was among those to be archived
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect