Internet-originated forms of communication can remove the caste distinction between writer/producer and reader/consumer.
By being free of the constraints of traditional articles and books, a shared electronic knowledge base can be open to the contributions of a much wider variety of people than our conventional media.
In an evolving electronic body of insight, a contributor need not write anything more than one compelling paragraph (and perhaps as little as a sentence) to gain a place in our collective understanding. Far more people can come up with a cogent and original paragraph than can produce an entire, professional-caliber magazine articlelet alone a book.
A properly-structured Internet forum can also reduce the gulf between writers and readers in other ways.
There is no reason, for example, why the same forum that promulgates a new-style electronic knowledge base cannot also include more advanced versions of the discussion formats that currently appear throughout the Web. It could actually make a good deal of sense to have a variety of these under one roof, in a graduated system of increasing professionalism and authority.
At the lowest entry level, there could be discussions to which virtually anybody was allowed to contribute. Next up the chain could be conversations which anyone could read, but to which no one could add comments, unless they had been specifically invited into the discussion group. At the next higher level might be an invitation to lead such a forum. Higher still could be an invitation to produce something for the main magazine itselfor to have something already created in a lower-level forum "promoted" up to this level for "publication."
In addition to reducing the enormous and often demoralizing barrier that currently exists between writers and readers, such a format could build popularity for the electronic forum that sponsored it, because it would be something of high caliber that many otherwise voiceless people could reasonably hope to have a hand in creating.
In a well-structured electronic knowledge base, real people's observations about real life could once again flourish, because one person's insight or tentative identification of a trend or pattern would be capable of drawing strength from the confirmations of many other people, dispersed over a wide geographic area.
(c) COPYRIGHT 1998 ROBERT WINTER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.