FOSS Open Content/Open Content and the New Knowledge Paradigm
The Open Content model essentially creates the context through which people can reflect on the process of the generation of knowledge and culture, and the values of openness and sharing. It does this by creating:
- New Contexts of Knowledge Creation
- New ways of creating and sharing knowledge; and
- New understandings of knowledge creation
New Contexts of Knowledge Creation
By looking at the importance of collaborative models of knowledge production and sharing, Open Content initiatives establish a new context through which people can engage in the process of creating knowledge. This model has a number of advantages, for instance, in the context of development information. A new initiative of the UNDP, the Solution Exchange Network, for instance, relies on the harnessing of the collective expertise of various communities working within the development sector, and enables them to pool their resources to create a common knowledge bank.
New Ways of Creating and Sharing Knowledge
Collaborative tools like wikis are increasingly becoming popular as new ways through which people can contribute to the process of knowledge creation. They recognize that the process of knowledge creation is based on incremental contributions; indeed, at the end of a project, it can be surprising how every small contribution finally adds up to a much wider base of knowledge. It also enables the emergence of "peer production" systems, which are characterized as production systems that depend on individual action that is self - selected and decentralized rather than hierarchically assigned.[ 63 ] Even very mainstream websites like Amazon have come to understand the value of this process of knowledge creation - the success of their peer - reviewed books and comments is a testimony to this, even though it is not an Open Content project.
New Understandings of Knowledge Creation
Once we move away from a possessive approach to knowledge, we begin to understand the virtues of collaborative processes. Similar to the world of software, Open Content projects cultivate a certain modesty in relation to the knowledge created; therefore, we begin to see how our base material is actually improved upon by people using and contributing to it. This is equally applicable to the ways in which large, complex projects can be achieved through distributed peer production. An instance of this is the NASA Clickworkers Project to mark craters on Mars, which was "an experiment to see if public volunteers, each working for a few minutes here and there can do some routine science analysis that would normally be done by a scientist or graduate student working for months on end." In its first six months of operation, more than 85,000 users visited the site, with many contributing to the effort, making more than 1.9 million entries. An analysis of the quality of entries showed "that the automatically computed consensus of a large number of clickworkers is virtually indistinguishable from the inputs of a geologist with years of experience in identifying Mars craters."[ 64 ]