Thursday, August 2, 2007

Wikinomics for Universities and Churches

Don Tapscott’s Wikinomics seems to me a must read for anyone who wants to understand not only what’s happening on the web and in business but in the world today. Not only do the ideas in the book explain a lot of Web 2.0 uses, but they suggest the basic value of democratic, horizontal collaboration as the keystone of 21st century postmodern culture.

I became painfully aware as I read Tapscott that both educational and religious institutions are so far behind being within, much less on the cutting edge of, current cultural organizations. How can either universities or churches hope to be vital participants in building a new world if they’re still stuck operating in entirely 20th century (or really 19th century) models? I know that both institutions are conservative by their very essence, but unless each adapts to new ways of being accessible in the public square, neither will have anything at all to offer in the near future.

At Mercy, for example, if what my students tell me is accurate, most of the work being assigned is still of the closed, monologue type, with data guarded (through citations among other things!) closely and websites still used as if they’re nothing more than digital books. Even old-fashioned collaborative assignments in a classroom are rarely given. When will educators move toward assignments that make use of Web 2.0 sources like Zoho’s free, collaborative office suite to partner students together in creative, innovative assignments? And when will churches start trying to catch up with 20th century website culture and move toward building ministries using blogs, wikis, and other new collaborative tools that can form ad hoc groups across all kinds of boundaries that used to stand in the way? What will it take to pull these two institutions into the 21st century?

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