Internet, Collaborative Search, and Communities of Interests

Internet, Collaborative Search, and Communities of Interests

Pascal Francq (Paul Otlet Institute, Belgium & Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-841-8.ch001
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New Knowledge Sources

Until the end of the XXth Century, the traffic on the Web was largely monopolized by a “few” sites (the main portals, several media, big companies and major universities). But, since the Web 2.0 phenomenon, the number of alternative knowledge sources has exploded. My concern is not to enumerate all these sources, but to emphasize some typical examples.

It is impossible to speak about these alternative knowledge sources without citing the free on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia and its 13,7 millions notices (in August 2009). In fact, several studies have shown that Wikipedia is not considered as an alternative source anymore, but as a reference for many net surfers. Its increasing use in students' works illustrates its importance for the younger generations. Without detailing how Wikipedia works, it is important to underline the fact that the notices are written by many non-payed contributors, some of them being anonymous, and that the encyclopedia tries to ensure a given neutrality in the positions presented (at least for controversial subjects). Many notices are written by several contributors, so it makes perfect sense to present Wikipedia as a product of different collectives, each one editing several notices related to the corresponding interest.

The blogs are another important trend today on the Web. On the technical side, it is nothing more than a Web site working with technologies existing since the nineties. But, in reality, their authors share several practices, the most important being the massive use of hyperlinks (in particular to other blogs). These interconnections between blogs make them build a world of their own called the blogosphere. Authors such as Gillmor (2004) claim that they propose a new way for journalism where citizens write for citizens. The recent emergence of micro-blogs (where the size of the messages posted is limited to a fixed number of characters, usually 140), such as Twitter, has reinforced the role of blogging as a process of informing. Here also, it is possible to consider that the blogosphere is formed by different collectives, each one consulting and editing a specific cluster of blogs.

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