The Awl has a good article about how Wikipedia, and Web 2.0 in general, have changed the way that knowledge is generated and accessed. Maria Bustillos fleshes out the implications of Wikipedia quite well, and as I will explain below, economics can benefit from open knowledge:
By empowering readers and observers with transparent access to the means by which conclusions are reached, rather than assembling them in an audience to hear the Authorities deliver the catechism from on high, we are all of us becoming scientists in this way, entering into a democracy of the intellect that is already bearing spectacular fruit, not just at Wikipedia but through any number of collaborative projects, from the Gutenberg Project to Tor to Linux…
Experts, geniuses, authorities, “authors”—we were taught to believe that these should be questioned, but until now have not often been given a way to do so, to seek out and test for ourselves the exact means by which they reached their conclusions. So long as we believe that there is such a thing as an expert rather than a fellow-investigator, then that person’s views just by magic will be worth more than our own, no matter how much or how often actual events have shown this not to be the case. For us to have this magic thinking about “individualism” then is pernicious politically, intellectually, in every way. That is not to say that we don’t value those who can lead the conversation. We’ll need them more and more, those “who are able to marshal the wisdom of the network,” to use Bob Stein’s words. But they might be more like DJs, assembling new ways of looking at things from a huge variety of elements, than like than judges whose processes are secret, and whose opinions are sacred.
I read this article last evening, about 12 hours after I happily signed up for the new initiative known as the World Economics Association, or WEA. As we know, economics needs to be opened up and pluralized badly (heck, this blog is named Open Economics for a reason). The WEA’s manifesto names a number of goals that are perfectly in line with out open-sourced knowledge operates- plurality, competence, relevance, and openness, to name a few. This new association, which will operate through free online journals and open web conferences, might be the first step towards wikifying economics. Already, the Real World Economics Review and its blog have raised the level of heterodox economic discourse and brought a solid platform. WEA aims to go a step further in terms of size, scope, and real discourse.
Now, there may seem to be a dissonance with the paragraphs I quoted from Bustillos and the fact that the WEA’s inception was ushered in with a letter from 141 founding members, all of them experts, and many of them true leaders in their fields. However, there is a vast difference between a neoclassical expert who seeks to promote his/her ideas above all others and an expert who wants to raise the level of discourse and bring in as many perspectives as possible. The WEA, unlike other professional associations in economics, explicitly welcomes non-economists (which include myself, I suppose). And, as Bustillos points out, these leaders in their fields will still play the role of the DJ, spinning the different ideas coming from all corners.
Pluralizing economics has been a goal of this blog from day one, and the benefits of this pluralism have been proven beyond a doubt through remarkable initiative like Wikipedia. Without hesitation, I encourage anyone reading this to join the WEA, get involved in the heterodox discourse, and help agitate economic knowledge for the better.