The Britannica Blog has started a forum on the impact of web 2.0 technologies on knowledge, learning, and authority.
To date - the crux of the articles bemoan the disappearance of the authoritative expert.
Nicholas Carr has an interesting point - the issue is not about amateur vs. professionalism. Or even about how information is produced. It is about information CONSUMPTION.
The millions of people who consult Wikipedia every day are not pursuing any kind of anti-expert or anti-scholar agenda. Their interest is practical, not ideological. They go to Wikipedia because it’s free and convenient. They know its quality and reliability are imperfect, but that’s a tradeoff they’re willing to make as they hurriedly fill their market baskets with information. It’s our mode of consumption that is going to shape our intellectual lives and even, in time, our intellects. And that mode is shifting, rapidly and inexorably, from page to web.
I'm not entirely certain it then follows that people become dumber as a result. Less contemplative - yes. But maybe we are seeing an increased emphasis on a different type of intelligence. One that allows us to process multiple inputs, make decisions on "authority" and produce new forms of information with whatever media we have handy.
I still wonder what impact this new technology will have on how we educate.
Should we focus on what constitutes "reliable" information? Is "authority" really any more reliable than the "hive mind" or the opinionated individual?
Do we need to do more to emphasize information processing and production rather than consumption?