Organizing Knowledge in the New Media: Notes on New Business Models at the Intersection of Education and
he traditional academic system of refereed articles is limited in offering a solution to the new problems of organizing usable knowledge in a rapidly-changing world. The incentive structure of traditional academics does not value public education and encourages hyper-specialization. On the other hand, even though the collaborative knowledge of the open-source era has produced new patterns of organizing knowledge, it has also created risks for those who want safeguards against unverified writings and the blurring of the lines between opinion and analysis. There is still an essential role for "credentialized" or "certified" expertise. Some in academia view this as an inevitable tradeoff between relevance and reliability. The market appetite is for both. These issues are not new, but they are now encountered daily. With this in mind, it is worthwhile to look at new media blogs, wikis and new designs for organizing and validating knowledge.
If one looks at blogs systematically, it is easy to be extremely optimistic about the new trends for dissemination of knowledge and debate. There is a need for symphony conductors or intellectual traffic cops (the new credentials and certification). The symphony conductor and traffic cop are potentially new business models. Where there are people playing this role, there is extraordinary innovation on the web. There has always been an assumption that specialized knowledge based web-sites would flourish in the Long Tail world of new media. Certainly "boutique" websites like Nathan Hamm's synopsis on Central Asia , Registan or Marianna Gurtovnik and Denise Mishiwiec on Azerbaijan fit this description, aggregating information which was inaccessible in a pre-new media age. It is impossible to imagine this kind of information organization in a pre-internet age and is an instant refutation of skeptics regarding the value of new media.
While the world of internet media contains many websites which are self-referential and basically on-line diaries, there is also a remarkable development of academics providing current and analytical commentary at a level which was simply inaccessible five years ago. There are obvious examples like Daniel Drezner and Andrew Sullivan that represent this fusion of academic research and thought-based journalism.
While not pretending to be comprehensive, here are six web-sites which serve as case studies of "the new curriculum", replacing the slow-moving knowledge-construction of academia and going into more rigorous debate than journalism can do.
In designing the University of the Future, these are the new building-blocks and are cited for that purpose. FDNF (Eddie Beaver), TDAXP (Dan Abbott), Abu Aardvark (Marc Lynch) , The Duck of Minerva, Oxblog and Davos Newbies (Lance Knobel) all fit this role.
In sociology of media, this is a new trend. In the business model of post-internet universities and the new commercialization of knowledge, these models will be of increasing importance. The venture capital community is looking at ways in which search engines can be combined with collaborative knowledge capacities to create value-added organization of knowledge. Start-ups like Radar Networks are prototypes of business models in this space. John Battelle's Federated Media is an innovative attempt to aggregate content as is, in a different manner, Nicholas Denton's Gawker. Both seek to use brand to become content navigators and aggregators of content. The new media will become a cornerstone of educational content and customized curriculum when there are clear brands in validation of content. The wisdom of crowds creates the extraordinary value of Wikipedia, but there will be many other models as the contours of the new information society takes shape. It is hard to imagine a wiki-model doing the kind of investigative journalism which one associates with the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes. It is also hard to imagine a wiki formula replicating a BBC seminar with Nobel prize-winning scientists. Brands and maintaining brand credibility becomes more, not less important is a new media world.
The informal links between blue chip online media is a first step towards validation, not quite wisdom of crowds, but a new branding equivalent to the earned influence of movie critics like Roger Ebert and A.O. Scott. Within these innovations are some winning venture capital models and the potential for a valuable innovation in the manner in which educational content is organized for the next generation of learning. In a new era where collaborative knowledge and certified expertise achieve a workable synthesis, there could be a variety of successful new business models for both education and new media and in the area where the two increasingly overlap. In this era, business models which create products that serve as intellectual "symphony conductors" or "traffic cops" will be much in demand.