Blog/The Schedule

From Wikimania

Dror Kamir, embedded reporter

A very loseable piece of paper, that schedule. Luckily it is distributed abundantly, and it doesn't cause global warming (well, maybe it does, but I can stop using it whenever I want). I know I promised to continue yesterday's blog. I wonder if I should keep this promise. The events happen so fast here, that continuing yesterday's blog is like telling last year's news. I was busy yesterday, honestly. When I finally spotted an unmanned computer, I was suddenly pied-piped by Gerard the living spirit behind the WiktionaryZ program. Enthusiasm is his middle name, and the love of lexicography is mine, so it was perfect. We can now tell that we met at WiktionaryZ and our song is the quite tune of the computer's ventilator.

As I wrote before, I speak Hebrew here more than I could have imagined. Strangely I don't hear much French, Arabic, and most surprisingly not a single word of Finnish. It is not that I speak Finnish, but I always compare the Hebrew Wiki community to the Finnish one in the sense that both have a unique language spoken predominately in one country, but with people who are enthusiastic about computers, Internet and gadgets. I did met people from India, Nepal, Indonesia and Iceland.

The highlight of the day was Brewster Kahle's introduction to his Universal Access to All Knowledge (You have the link in the blog beneath mine). Bibhusan, a Wikipedian from Nepal, told me he was not entirely pleased with the concept. A considerable amount of the Nepali knowledge, he says, is orally transmitted, hence, it won't appear in Kahle's large archive. I didn't think about it during the talk, but when he told me that, it stroke me, because I heard such a claim before. All that remained of orally transmitted cultures is usually what Christian missionaries thought that should be written down in the alphabet they brought with them from Europe. Nepali culture is in better condition because it already has its own alphabet and a litterate tradition. The problem is probably to encourage litteracy, or perhaps realizing that passive recording of all texts and other media is not enough. Some cultural material must be reached out for, otherwise it will disappear.

Another interesting question that was raised at the last moments of the talk was: what's the use of all this infomation, and why aren't we better off letting it disappear. Knowledge can indeed be a dangerous thing. I believe it was the American anthropologist Jared Diamond who questioned such inventions or revolutions as agriculture and writing, listing all of their horrible disadvantages. One could indeed say - well, these inventions are here to stay, but let's not get too enthusiastic about them. I believe it is a matter of values. If you think that distributing information is a value that should be adhered to, then you must acknowledge its possible damage and be willing to deal with it. I think that was also implied in Kahle's answer.

One interesting talk was the use of Wikimedia in education, particularly in high-schools and universities. My father has made a small research about community schools in Israel, and I must direct him to the recording of that talk. The examples for the use of Wiki in university courses were from Israel, so he cannot use the language barrier as an excuse - he should contact the speaker (unless he became interested in some other subject by now - I inherited this character from him). One phrase to memorize from that talk is Dewey's: "Education is not a preparation to life, it is life". Don't give me that look - I like cynisism, but one should take a break from time to time.

Speaking of Cynisism - I don't see much of it here. Actually I don't see it here at all. It is amazing how people can get enthisiast once they have the tools and the resources they need. If we are bound to clash with an astroid, we might as well clash with a great deal of enthusiasm (yes, the cynicism break is over).