Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Monday, January 28, 2008

big thinking 1.5?

BigThink was launched earlier this month as a YouTube for intellectuals. They felt that someone needed to bridge "what was an evident gap between credible, informed editorial opinion and the less controlled freestyle of online social media." Okay then.

Their about-us video starts with this quote from Edward R. Murrow: The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.

By providing access to an Expert Network, the BigThinkers hope to encourage an online discussion that is "open across all geographies, boundaries and jurisdictions - not limited to one class, rank or station." They post videos of interviews with academics, politicians, writers, artists and presidential candidates. Site users can respond by posting videos or text comments or they can post their own ideas and questions for debate. TED Talks meets YouTube? Or YouTube meets YouTube?

So who are the BigThink experts? Here is what the BigThinkers have posted on their FAQ page: The Web has no shortage of self-anointed experts, and the Expert Network is our way of reclaiming a little nook of cyberspace where depth of knowledge and expertise still reign... we look to a range of factors, including a person's body of published work, peer recommendations, professional honors, and popular interest. Fame is by no means a pre-requisite to be an expert, however. If you think you qualify, we invite you to apply to be one of our experts and share your knowledge with the world.

Just keep in mind what Edward R. said: Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn't mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.

Here is how the BigThinkers respond to the question, "What's an idea?":
...by submitting an idea, you're entering it into the public sphere. Sure, some of your ideas will be greeted with hearty hurrah's [sic], but others might be met with strident disagreement. But that's the fun of it. Enough preaching to the choir, enough ideological isolationism. We want to pull you into a lively and challenging debate.

What preaching to the choir? What ideological isolationism?

BigThink seems to be a kind of Old School Library/Web 2.0 hybrid. On the one hand they are channeling Andrew Keen (the Expert Network) and on the other, David Weinberger (mission statement:
to move the discussion away from talking heads and talking points, and give it back to you).

It will be interesting to see how this site develops. In the meantime, there is some engaging and accessible content over there. Just remember that Ed warns us:
Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit.

(photos taken from this tribute to some old school journalists/barroom intellectuals.)


Wendell said...

Hmmmm.... Lots of big-worded claims being made there. If someone has to tell you they're an expert....

Well, maybe it only sounds like standard SEO (search engine optimization) and snake-oil selling.


(I love the web!)

maire said...

hmmmmm... couldn't find who is putting big think together... can't see how it relates to youtube at all - no piano playing cats, no dancing parrots, no cross-dressing dogs... just lots of talk ... sigh !! I signed up anyway - just can't resist that registration screen - now just need to come up with an idea... any ideas?

literacies publisher said...

No big ideas here.

Here is where you can find out more about the founders Peter Hopkins and Victoria Brown: http://www.crunchbase.com/company/bigthink



Hopkins and co-founder Victoria Brown, 33, met while working as producers on PBS' "Charlie Rose" show and have done an impressive job of attracting both celebrity interview subjects and top-drawer investors. The latter include Peter Thiel, who Hopkins knows through a friend who works with the investor at Clarium Capital Management LLC; economist Lawrence Summers, who was president of Harvard University when Hopkins was an undergraduate there; and South African venture capitalist David Frankel, with whom Brown attended Harvard Business School. In April of last year, Big Think closed a Series A, which Hopkins tells Tech Confidential was "in the low seven figures."

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