Wikipedia, says Reagle, is not the first effort to create a freely shared, universal encyclopedia; its early twentieth-century ancestors include Paul Otlet's Universal Repository and H. G. Wells's proposal for a World Brain. Both these projects, like Wikipedia, were fuelled by new technology -- which at the time included index cards and microfilm. What distinguishes Wikipedia from these and other more recent ventures is Wikipedia's good-faith collaborative culture, as seen not only in the writing and editing of articles but also in their discussion pages and edit histories. Keeping an open perspective on both knowledge claims and other contributors, Reagle argues, creates an extraordinary collaborative potential.
Wikipedia's style of collaborative production has been imitated, analyzed, and satirized. Despite the social unease over its implications for individual autonomy, institutional authority, and the character (and quality) of cultural products, Wikipedia's good-faith collaborative culture has brought us closer than ever to a realization of the century-old pursuit of a universal encyclopedia.
But all of this can changeÑwe have the power. Lawrence Lessig, the renowned Harvard Law School professor, political activist, and author of the bestselling ÒRepublic, Lost,Ó presents a clear-eyed, bipartisan manifesto for revolution just when we need it the most. ÒOne Way ForwardÓ is a rousing, eloquent, and ultimately optimistic call to action for Americans of all political persuasions. Notable in these viciously partisan times, Lessig pitches his address equally to Occupy Wall Streeters, Tea Party Patriots, independents, anarchists, and baffled citizens of the American middle. Despite our serious political differences, he argues, we canÑand mustÑchange the system for the better.
At the core of our government, Lessig says, is Òa legal corruption.Ó In other words: money. The job of politics has been left to a tiny slice of Americans who dominate campaign finance and exert a disproportionate influence on lawgivers as a result. This, he writes, Òis a dynamic that would be obvious to Tony Soprano or Michael Corleone but that is sometimes obscure to political scientists: a protection racket that flourishes while our Republic burns.Ó
ÒWe donÕt need to destroy wealth,Ó Lessig declares. ÒWe need to destroy the ability of wealth to corrupt our politics.Ó
With the common-sense idealism of his hero, Henry David Thoreau, Lessig shows how Americans can take back their country, and he provides a concrete and surprisingly practical set of instructions for doing it.
In a season where Americans are poised between the hope for real change and the fear that, once again, they wonÕt get it, One Way Forward charts a course to a thrillingly new American future in which every citizen has a voice that matters, no matter how fat his or her wallet.