Wikimania and Free Culture Movement

Posted by: Olga Kharif on August 02, 2005

Aug. 4 will mark the first day of the world’s first international Wiki conference, Wikimania, located, sadly (for the U.S. Wiki fans, anyway), in Frankfurt, Germany. Wikis, which allow thousands of people to collaboratively work on the same documents online, are transforming the way information is produced. Several years ago, Wikipedia.org, the most high-profile Wiki site, has begun to get people involved into collaboratively creating news stories. Now, the site is putting out books, such as “How to Build a Computer” and “Wikijunior Solar System.” It’s also pulling together a so-called Wikiversity, in which Web users are invited to create online courses on everything from economics to philosophy.

What I find particularly interesting is that this powerful technology is actually part of a cultural movement. Many call it the Free Culture movement, to correspond with a book of the same title written by popular blogger and Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig. The idea is that knowledge should be shared freely through technologies such as Wikis.

I think that businesses need to take a note of this movement, as it could bring about major changes to the way they protect their intellectual property, create products and services and function.

According to FreeCulture.org, the movement has already resulted in eight college chapters around the country. And it has spread far beyond written works. Public Patent Foundation is advocating that all software should be free. Clearly, open-source operating system Linux is rapidly gaining popularity. And, recently, a group of Danish students created the world's first open-source beer.

In the next few days, Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales will actually compile a list of things he believes should be free in a write-up on the Lessig blog here. He has particularly specified that he won't be talking about beer.

So this will be a serious list and one, hopefully, that will show the direction our society will be going in in the coming years.

Wales believes that some other types of knowledge/content that are pay-for today will become free 20 to 50 years down the road. It's going to be interesting to see the ideas that come out of the blog and Wikimania.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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