Saturday, March 19, 2005

Collaborative book (re)writing, or why Lessig rules

Lawrence Lessig decided to update his 1999 book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. Did he hole himself up in his office like a typical author? Of course not. He created a wiki so everyone could contribute to the update. He calls Code v.2 "a book by Lawrence Lessig and You."

This is a perfect example of how the Internet can be used to create a whole greater than the sum of the parts without devolving into chaos. The structure here (an author who coordinates a self-motivating group of contributors) is similar to the way open source software is created (I'm particularly thinking of Linux.)

I don't see why news can't be created the same way -- a journalist coordinating a self-motivating group of contributors. It's a system that encourages community, makes readers invested in the process (and hopefully less attitudinal about journalists), and gathers more information than one journalist could ever hope to amass. If we're lucky, this is what the future of journalism will look like.