GOOD

Jimmy Wales on the (Encyclopedic) Value of Sharing

Jimmy Wales is the founder of Wikipedia. I had been watching the growth of the free and open source software movements for a...

Jimmy Wales is the founder of Wikipedia.

I had been watching the growth of the free and open source software movements for a few years, and I was thinking about people coming together and collaborating. What was really making that world possible is that people devised these licenses that allow, for example, programmers to share their work with other programmers, who could copy it, redistribute it, and modify it. This licensing method took away a lot of concerns people had about sharing their work online. People didn’t mind other people taking their work and reusing it, but there are certain things they didn’t want other people to do, like close the source code, make it proprietary, or make it so that I can’t see the changes that have been made. I realized that this mode of collaboration was not really something that would be confined only to software. I realized a lot more would be coming, so I started thinking of what might be good to collaborate on. I had the idea of the encyclopedia.

The way I talk about this is as a reemergence of folk culture. For a long time, we thought about culture being more or less divided in two parts: We had pop culture, which was commercially driven, and then we had fine art culture, which was partially commercial but we felt it needed to be paid for by wealthy patrons or governments or something like that. But we also had folk culture—people sharing songs and stories passed down from generations. Now that we have all of these tools for communicating directly peer to peer, we are seeing a real explosion and reemergence of that kind of folk culture, and a move away from broadcast culture.

In a certain sense it is a very natural extension of what we always did; it’s just that we have the tools to do it much better than we ever did before. Everybody used to take pictures and share them with their friends, and some people got involved with photography as a hobby and met other photographers and joined photography clubs. Other people would sing songs and modify them and those songs would get passed around. Now all of those things can happen on a much larger scale simply because we have the tools available to do it—and a licensing framework set up that helps people make sure that what they are doing is legal and in accordance with what their values are.

I think that the separated factions of people who care about making money off of this and people who don't isn’t really sustainable in the long run; I think that it really doesn’t make a lot of sense. What we are seeing is people reacting with a little bit of shock to this change, but in the long run these changes are here to stay. The Internet is here to stay. People sharing things online is here to stay. We still have a lot of innovations coming in terms of what kind of communities can be built and what kind of activities people may engage in online, but I think what we are going to see moving forward is really more of a spectrum, a continuum of activities: There are certain things that will be produced the old fashioned way as part of a commercially oriented broadcasted culture, and I think that’s fine and will stay the same; we are going to see people doing things like Wikipedia, which is spontaneously sharing with no commercial or career motive for the most part; and then there will be some in between, where people, especially younger artists, will get their start by becoming well known through the sharing culture, and then will go on to sell some of their work under a traditional model. Or we may see some existing successful performers who say, "Yeah I’m going to continue doing some of my work this way, but I’m also going do some of it in an attempt to have a bigger impact on the culture. I may release a song or a whole album in a way that allows people to modify it and let people take it and change it and build on it and do something different with it." I think that there is no way we should be in a situation where there are different factions. I think all of these things are just tools that people can use for a variety of purposes.

Story as told to Eric Steuer. Click the play button below to listen to the interview on which this piece is based.



Eric Steuer is the creative director of Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that works to make it easier for creators to share their work with the rest of the world. It also provides tools to make it easier for people to find creative work that's been made available to them—and the rest of the world—to use, share, reuse etc., freely and legally. This is the third in a series of edited and condensed interviews called "We like to share," in which Steuer talked to people who work across a variety of fields who use sharing as an approach to benefit the work that they do.



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health