5.b.19 – Can a village of information exist?

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July 19, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Can a village of information exist?

Wanting to create a collective, democratic and decentralized management of the information, it is immediate to ask if we can reuse the model of the human coral and of the village which have already been used for the management of culture. Considering that culture is transmitted through the information, it is in fact a problem already addressed and resolved.
The primary activity of the individual in the management of information of public interest lies in the following steps:
– collect information
– assess the reliability on the basis of specific criteria
– assess the importance and urgency, ensuring that it is not a mere curiosity
– transmit it in turn, taking care to separate the fact from comments,
while for the opinions and curiosity is valid the procedure already discussed for the cultural management:
– select topics of which talking
– assess the reliability of what we want to say on the basis of specific criteria
– report freely what defined.
To process information in the public interest so requires only two more steps: to eliminate the curiosity-related news and separate the fact from the opinions.
As it was obvious, the word of mouth works with all types of information and is the best method when applied to a small group of people. With the increase in the number, we know how easily the news can be altered; let’s see if even in this case, the concentric structure based on the village can help us.
Remembering how in a federation of villages ideas slip into the center of a funnel formed by concentric circles, and at each circle they were filtered, rejected, approved or completed, we can note that for a news story of public interest such operations are completely unnecessary as the bulk of the news is a fact that may be true or false, it can be believed or not, but certainly not improved, experienced and less than ever discarded, i.e. hidden, because in this case, the assemblies would become bodies of censorship. The structure of the village may be useful to comment on a matter of importance but not for spreading knowledge: to obtain this effect is sufficient to publish the news on a dedicated website.
The publication of a news allows to avoid the natural deformation of the news that we have with the word of mouth; of course, a written text can be misinterpreted, but these cases are much more rare. Instead another problem rises: how to assess the reliability of information published by a perfect stranger on the web?
In this case, the modern village is rather a valuable aid: within it, unknown persons do not exist and each can be easily judged by others. If we think of a village whose operations are to manage information in a democratic way, groups and meetings will form to comment on the important news; it certainly does not depend on the groups if the news is true or false, but everyone can make its contribution to interpret them and to evaluate the validity of the source.
We can imagine that there is a site where any member can post a news that considers important for the community: that site will act as a bulletin board or newspaper for the whole village, everyone can make its contribution, if possible, to verify if the news is true, if it has been well understood, doing in-depth researches; obviously not everyone can do it, but one in ten is more than enough.
In the information management, a particularly important activity is to assess the reliability of the source; in our case means to judge the seriousness and objectivity of those who published the news. Today, every program for the management of electronic mail allows to refuse spam mail from specific addresses, and store favorite contacts in a phonebook. A similar program would save all members of the village or of largest structures, with our personal opinion on each of them, automatically discarding those that we judged unreliable. If desired, these opinions could also be expressed in a collective manner giving to the individual a starting score as it is today used for driving licenses: who commits too many errors or is deemed unfit for obvious malpractice is excluded from the dashboard of the village.
With the same system we could make an automatic selection of news based on the fields of interest, highlighting for example the news of economy or medicine, thereby saving an enormous amount of time and with much greater reliability. A well-known example of how a decentralized but efficient organization would save time is Wikipedia: how long would our research last without it? The network also presents the possibility that a bulletin board or a newspaper does not have: in it the user can also ask questions, making it also a technological evolution of the word by mouth, not just of newspapers. Speaking of cultural importance of chats with friends, we had said that it was unnatural to apply at the time the rules of cultural management, they were to be applied before, in solitude, in a moment of personal reflection. As we know this is a change of habits that can be very difficult, but when applied to the internet is much easier, there are already many sites where visitors ask questions and ask for advice to other users who, not being involved in verbal dialogue, have more time to reflect well and even to read before answering. Here’s an example of how is easy to apply, in a new context, the new criteria, so much so that in large part has already happened spontaneously. Other important benefits offered by the internet are the possibility to access to an infinite store of information, to receive an enormous amount of statistics, to have immediate results and all at minimal or even zero cost, but the real news compared to the newspapers and television is that we cannot just be passive users, but we can turn into active producers.

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