In Chapter 5 of The Long Tail Anderson reminds us that we now live in a society of new producers. He cites author Doc Searls, who calls this shift one from consumerism to participative "producerism":
The "consumer economy" is a product-controlled system in which consumers are nothing more than energy sources that metabolize "content" into cash. This is the absolutely corrupted result of the absolute power held by producers over consumers since producerse won the Industrial Revolution. Apple is giving consumers tools that make them producers. The practice radically transforms both the marketplace and the economy that thrives on it (page 64).
As Anderson notes, today millions of ordinary people have the necessary tools, such as the iPod, and the role models to become amateur producers. The Wikipedia phenomenon is a fascinating example of how amateurs are gaining credibility in "The Long Tail" consumer society.
Wikipedia was started by Jimmy Wales who set out to build a massive on-line encyclopaedia by tapping into the accumulated wisdom of millions of individuals. The Wikipedia site allows anyone with web access to go onto the site, edit, delete, or add to what is already there. Wales’ goal was to construct a repository of knowledge. At page 71 of his book, Anderson notes that the traditional process for creating an encyclopaedia – professional editors, academic writers and peer review – aimed for perfection.
How does Wikipedia differ? Its whole nature rests in the fact that a strong power of peer deduction is involved in the process. Thanks to the capabilities of the Internet, Jimmy Wales’ idea, which began in 2001, had become the largest encyclopaedia on the planet by 2005. Wikipedia continues to succeed as an encyclopaedia written by millions because its’ authors are enthusiastically involved, liberated and motivated by the opportunity to improve the public understanding of something they know and love.
Thanks, Ian and Suzana.