SR, Blogs…and Wikipedia
a case study to teach what the internet is capable of intellectually and philosophically.
Now, maybe I am missing something, but when I saw it I was pretty disappointed. As I have suggested before, I do believe that SR is interestingly and inextricably linked, technologically and ideologically, to our contemporary ‘internet culture’. Unfortunately, to simply make an hyperlinked list of blogs, books and people related to SR is not representative of this. (This is something I was thinking about yesterday: wait another year and then write a critical history of the emergence and development of SR online: who is the first one who actually used the term ‘speculative realism’ on a blog? I guess Harman? How would Levi’s Democracy of Objects have been had he not been a blogger and engaged in discussions with others? When looking at a temporally large picture, who else has been influenced by the erratic form of blog discussions (and how)? And how have other non-blogging ‘SRists’ like Meillassoux developed differently/in different directions?)
Now, the SR Pathfinder, is very useful for those who have no idea what SR is all about and need a one-page reference. But why not simply update and improve the Wikipedia entry of SR?
This brings me to another (quite unrelated) theme I wanted to touch on, which actually is not my original idea but something I heard when watching the podcast of Cory Doctorow‘s (the guy who runs BoingBoing) talk at the Q2C festival last month (on open access, piracy and copyright). He explained how he decided that instead of having his undergraduate classes write essays which would end up forgotten in a University archive, he made it a mandatory and assessed piece of coursework for students to edit the Wikipedia pages related to his course (or perhaps the creation of new ones).
This, from where I stand, is quite simply a fantastic idea. Get your students to register with a Wikipedia account, so that you can track their activities and assign a group of them the task of improving a given Wikipedia page, say, for example, the page on Naive Realism (I think that a page on a philosophical current or position works better than one about a single philosopher).
They’d have to propose changes and go through the process of collective ‘peer-reviewing’ on the related discussion page. Advantages? Two main ones: first, a pedagogical one, since the students would get to actually discuss with each other and not simply write an essay on their own PC without any feedback in the process, hence developing the critical ability to discuss philosophical positions; second, a more public one since such a direct link between university courses and Wikipedia would dramatically increase the average quality of Wikipedia entries. If correctly organized and extended on a large scale, I believe that good students could produce ‘for free’ (of course, for their own intellectual advancement) a final product as good as (or actually better) the one offered by the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (which, don’t get me wrong, is a wonderful resource).
I think that in the process of implementing this method of assessment, many more constructive ideas than I presented here could pop out (for example, assigning different groups to different, yet related, pages and see how they independently build links to each other).
The downside and the reason why it will probably not spread as fast as I would like? Simple: it would take a much longer time for the markers to assess the performance of a student, as spread over a long amount of time and disseminated in many small editings to the page. And given how much the average lecturer loves to read and mark a pile of essays (warning, sarcasm) I think this idea would not take off.
Still, it could still be present as a second assessment method, parallel to the good old essay.
EDIT - So apparently this post gave me the first scathing mention from the perverse egalitarian. In the comments section of a recent post I just read:
I think it’s great that SR is getting noticed (no references to OOP/OOO though), but notice how it is presented by these excitable attention-craving “philosophical bloggers” – Fabio basically describes this as “part of a project of the University of Illinois” and so on. It’s a collection of links I can create in a minute, it includes Zizek, for example, whom I would not count as a “speculative realist” or anything for that matter. It’s a good lesson in self-promotion though, I’m very impressed. In a week we have a new “peer-reviewed journal” and now an awesome “database/pathfinder” – what’s next? a TV appearance or another Badiou interview? Oh my…
Yay! I have finally been recognized as the excitable attention-craving pseudo-philosophy blogger that I really am! But wait, did I not write up there that i was disappointed by what I saw on that website (as compared to what I was expecting from it, see comments below)? Well probably that was just a strategy to dissimulate my (actual) excitation. I must be a quite cunning attention-craving pseudo-philosophy blogger