This is a guest post from Luca De Biase, the Chairman of the <ahref foundation. He is the editor of Nòva24, the weekly technology and new media section of the Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore and visiting lecturer in new media and journalism at the IULM University in Milan.
A good question is the necessary precondition, even if insufficient, for obtaining a good answer. The problem is therefore to clarify whether or not this question might be a valid question. It is certainly an urgent question. The quantity of information available is increasing at an incredible rate, via social media, the Internet, digitalisation and the acceleration of the speed at which one can access content on line. The fact is that the Internet has made it much cheaper to publish content. The role of quality filter, in the analogue era, was played by few major “custodians” of knowledge: publishers, universities and cultural authorities.
Today, in the context of information being published very easily, this filtering function only takes place during the writing process. The actual validity of content therefore becomes a problem in terms of being able to judge and assess its quality. Every point of view is valid and every evaluation of the quality is possible – this new reality can both enrich and disorientate. It can open up culture to the multiplicity of free expression and can make it more difficult to find common, tolerant and respectful cultural ground with the risk that only those with the loudest voice are heard above the general noise.
However it could be argued that risk is just an anxious way of defining the concept of opportunity. Risk is an integral part of the process of innovation. When a society takes on risk it means that the society has decided to embrace change. One thing is clear, society has enthusiastically embraced the web, has experimented with its usefulness and found liberation in the richness and free flow of ideas. Society hasTherefore it has seen more opportunities than risks in the web. For this reason the evolution of the web cannot and should not be hindered, feared, manipulated, managed or denied. It should be embraced with courage, both actively and constructively.
If there is a fundamental phenomenon in the culture of the web, it is its ability to instil the vision of change and its ability to encourage action by those that use it, thereby participating in its evolution. Quality of information on the web cannot be imposed, it is enriched through thought and initiative. Only by having a critical approach to the web can the inherent problems be discovered, possible solutions be imagined and initiatives experimented with. In this context, it is no longer the position of a cultural authority to define the quality of information. That role is now taken on by those generating the information, by those encouraging a critical approach, and those participating in the experience - creating, in the spirit of serving, a role that is no longer a means to earning a living. Digging deeper in this direction one discovers that recent history, in the information sector, can be summarised with a single observation: the general public has thrown off its passivity, which the previous media context had imposed upon it, and is putting the information authorities under pressure; not by denying them their role, but by stimulating the authorities to demonstrate the legitimacy of their position through concrete action.
A renewal of the information eco-system could be the end result. The thrust and the meaning of this renewal, especially in technology, are to be found in the individuals who take the opportunities offered by technology and request and encourage change. All this adds greater urgency to the question that has inspired these initial contributions to the research of the Fondazione Ahref. But this does not demonstrate that it is a good question. No doubt, an evaluation will emerge from the cultural, educational and practical results that this type of inspiration might favour. For the moment, we can only wish everyone a successful dialogue, starting with the contributions that certain “masters” of contemporary culture have kindly contributed to our burgeoning community.
The <ahref Foundation focuses on the quality of information emerging from today's social networks and digital media. Its research activities aim at innovation geared toward good journalism and citizen participation, while also developing open platforms & projects to increase online collaboration.
You can find the original article here.