Flickrzen looks cool–a bloggger blog about flickr’s “exceptional photographs, be that subject, technique, or rarity.” Flickr itself is a great social spot for sharing photos. According to Diggnation, there has been a flickr page for the London bombings since the moment it happened.
The benefit of all of these “social bookmarking” sites–flickr, digg, even StumbleUpon (which is not a site per se, but an extension for Firefox) is that they put together the ubiquity of the internet with the data-processing powers of computers and the vast array of individual interests of individual users. What comes out are places where you can go to find out what others are interested in, share your own interests, and easily search for all of them.
Perhaps the most interesting place where this is happening right now is Wikipedia, a user-created web encyclopedia. What will be the status of education in a world where anything you want to know is available within a few keystrokes? Of course, as Kate pointed out to me today, the situation is not new: we’ve had libraries for centuries.
But libraries are organized by publishers’ interests: what they think is appropriate to catalogue goes in, and the rest stays out. This is both good and bad for information circulation: on the one hand, society can filter out points of view that are considered fringe or simply wrong, but on the other, less well-known but otherwise valid and possibly even important perspectives are also filtered out.
In the future, we may need to re-tool our expectations of what higher education provides us, asking faculty to focus more on teaching the methods of information search, assessment, and re-packaging: in some ways, rhetoric. Aristotle considered rhetoric “the study of the available means of persuasion”; in a world where information is not guarded by elite gatekeepers but available to anyone with a web connection and a browser (cell phones are getting better at this all the time, by the way), our brightest need to know not so much specifics as the techniques for finding and discerning the best specific arguments out there and merging them in new ways for the good of all.
Good luck to all.