Sunday, July 08, 2007

Paradigm Shift.. Or Was That A Pair of Dimes?

I've finally finished reading Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams book Wikinomics. It's required reading for anyone who is online today (or it certainly should be), particularly for anyone in business or education on the Web who is using or thinking about using Web 2.0 tools. Throughout the book, the authors talk about a paradigm shift and it's one we all need to be aware of.

The paradigm shift here is openness and collaboration - sharing information, product secrets,and business processes in order to improve them. It really is a major shift for many people and not just in business. I personally think that the implications of Wikinomics are even more profound for educators and academics. We live in a world of intellectual property, of copyright, where "it's mine and I won't share" is not an uncommon refrain. Here is where the paradigm shift occurs - we can no longer afford to hoard our knowledge, only sharing after some sort of royalty or payment is made - information transfer is happening too fast and there is simply too much information out there to ensure that this old, tired way of doing business happens.

So what is the new paradigm? Should the creator of a work be fairly compensated for their efforts? Of course they should, but we also need to take a long hard look at what is fair compensation and what that means for all of us as information consumers. I have noticed that my learners have a whole different attitude towards information and knowledge sharing, whether they be digital natives or not. They simply consume what they discover - they don't see it as plagiarism or cheating - the information is out there to be used, so they use it. This, obviously, clashes with current attitudes and policies towards academic integrity and plagiarism. So what to do? Educate all of our learners in the "old ways" of intellectual property, or develop a new way of doing things. I prefer the latter and I think that the Creative Commons licensing process is a great start.

The Creative Commons system allows creators to choose how they will license their products for use, whether that be all rights reserved, some rights reserved, or free use. Personally I tend to use the Attribution Non Commercial or Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike licenses, as most of what I do is non-commercial in nature. If you do commercial work, try the Attribution Share Alike license on for size.

Whatever we do with information and knowledge as we go forward, and as the sheer speed of knowledge acquisition and dissemination increase exponentially, there is no doubt that a paradigm shift is happening and we all need to be aware of this shift, because it will cost us a lot more than a pair of dimes if we don't adapt...

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