A stray thought on Wikileaks: it’s actually pretty old-fashioned. Building on Rick Prelinger here: it’s not particularly networked, peer-to-peer, or Web 2.0 at all. Just the contrary, in fact: it’s pure distilled Web 1.0. It’s the collective fantasy of all the 80s cyberpunk novels and spy thrillers made real. It’s a Stieg Larsson story. It’s the heroic hacker standing athwart history telling “Information wants to be free!”—which is fine, but also a bit shopworn. (I guess maybe we’re all just excited that it finally happened?)
After all: the Wikileaks process is top-down and one-way. It’s pretty opaque too, right? Unless I’m totally missing something, the “wiki” prefix is a total misnomer. I mean, yes, the leaked documents come from many different informants, many of them anonymous—but that’s nothing new. Back in the day the documents just came over the transom, and they were printed on paper.
Now, of course that actually provides Wikileaks’ best defense: the scale of the docu-dumps is totally staggering and totally modern. Wikileaks contends with scale successfully: I will give it that.
But there’s more to the modern web than gigabytes, and I think the truly transformative transparency project would be something that was actually distributed and participatory. This is why I continue to be much more enthralled by stuff like Anonymous, which seems to me much more of-the-moment and, frankly, hard to understand. That’s a good thing. I mean, any time the media has a tough time telling a story about something, you know it must be truly new. Wikileaks is an easy story, made for front pages—and for me, that means it’s a pretty boring story as well.
Now, I’m just talking about Wikileaks-as-organization and Wikileaks-as-process here. The good news is that within the leaks, there are plenty of great stories, and breathtakingly modern ones, too. Take it away, Cablegate Chronicles.
Note: I’d love to get talked out of this if you’ve got a different take on Wikileaks. Remember, I’m talking about the organization and the process, not the political impact, etc.
Another note: There were a bajillion great comments waiting in the queue to be approved. Sorry ’bout that. Good stuff!
One more note: Okay, I still think it’s not very Web 2.0, but who cares when the story is this crazy?