Wiki Culture and the end of Practical Obscurity

I learned a new term the other day from Zeynep Tufekci, one that lawyers use to call information that is essentially accessible but not necessarily easily available…”practical obscurity”.

Think of all the Canadian government documents obtained through the freedom of information act. Yes, we’re free to obtain them but it can be a bit of a hassle to do so. As a result, only a fraction of the documents available through the act are actually obtained or disseminated. But wiki culture is changing that. Wikileaks is opening up our diplomatic cables and corporate files and Wikipedia has become the go to source for settling trivia arguments.

What else has digital technology freed from practical obscurity?

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2 comments so far

  1. Eric Buchegger on

    Digital technology is breaking down information access barriers across a wide range of fields – to the point where the public can easily find information that was once only attainable by “experts”. As a result, experts no longer exert the same control over information they used to. How many people now go to a doctor’s office, with a strong inclination as to what might be ailing them? Or how about walking into an insurance agency, knowing all of the best rates from competitors in the area? The information certainly was available before the Internet … but a lot more difficult to find.

  2. Jason Dojc on

    Good point Eric. Not only have we uncovered the previously obscure, we’ve democratized expertise. Or at least one element of expertise, knowing the facts.

    Experts are still needed to apply knowledge. You might have a few ideas of what your symptoms might mean but you still need medical professionals to perform the tests, get a proper diagnosis and treat you.


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