Like the formative years of the printing press in Germany, the early World Wide Web was often a resource for enterprise. Both also have taken on the greater roles of becoming also an agent of epistemic revolution. Many of the first books to be printed en masse were titles that would guarantee readership as the first large web sites would generate large profits, but as the cost to make these materials in each media were reduced, their authorship became more distributed. This, however, is where the web page continues along a trajectory where the book never will travel, individual access to contribute to global discourse. The simple cost of producing material in an electronic media is near zero, providing a mechanism for writing to be as inexpensive as reading.
This fact may be a causative agent behind the contemporary trends within education to involve new medias in their pedagogy. It may also be that educators see media creation technologies creating the possibility to instantiate previously unobtainable pedagogies and theories. As educational technologists trumpet recent phenomena such as the success of Wikipedia as proof of educational constructivism, communities of practice as an example of group cognition and massively online multiplayer videogames as a window into Vygotsky’s scaffolding theories, much of the rest of the world also sees democratic participation in media as the path to their view of salvation. The interests of the educators are only part of a larger fascination with participatory media in general. Examples exist in all fields from art to politics.
I believe that Dewey’s writings on democracy and the notion of cosmopolitanism help explain the endearment our society has with participating. It may be that by examining the chain of philosophies have led us to this point in time that we can understand why think the way we think and these two notions have a vast history within themselves. Though a description of the cosmopolitism metonym may be in vain, let me begin there nonetheless.
Cosmopolitism is a pervasive social norm that is commonly traced back to ancient Greece. The Greek term itself, kosmopolitês, can be translated “citizen of the world,” and marks a radical change from the notion that a citizen was either part of the Greek State or the other notion, a member of the Hellenistic made of thinking. As a citizen of the world, there is an individual role for each person within the society made of humankind and the notion that such a thing exists in the first place.
In The Age of School Reform, Popkewitz investigates the makeup of the notion of cosmopolitism and where it intersects with education reform. One of these elements, according to Popkewitz, is that the modern notion of time (past, present and future) is combined with a belief in human agency (demonstrated in the protestant revolution) synthesizes to form a societal belief that we have the capacity to change our future for the better.
Another component of cosmopolitism is the enlightenment’s faith in science and reason as a path and tool for an improved society. Gone are the confusions brought by religious belief and mysticism. The cosmopolitan society uses the tools of statistics to improve poverty and technology to release liberty, an idea we see continued in Dewey’s essay, Christianity and Democracy.
Dewey begins his writing defining Christianity not as a dogma or as a religious cult, but as freedom itself. “Jesus had no special doctrine to impose, no special set of truths labeled religious,” he says, followed by the assertion that the purpose of the Christian religion is revelation, and that must result in something tangible, experienced and discovered by the believer about the Truth of the universe and freedom within. For Dewey, this means “democracy [itself] is a spiritual fact and not a mere piece of governmental machinery.”
Where Dewey’s understanding of democracy and Christianity’s intersection becomes the most pronounced is when he states that by removing restrictions, the truth that is available is given a chance to become apparent. It is by giving a mechanism for all people to speak that we will be able to receive revelation.
By noticing these notions of cosmopolitanism and the new religion of democracy, it is easy to see why the fascination the world has with Web 2.0 goes far beyond the love of shiny new gadgets and technology. These views are more deeply rooted in the assumption that human reasoning (which is demonstrated in the creation technology) when put within context of the world stage (like the internet) is actually a cult in and of itself with the end being the ability for the individual to curate and display truth in a way that will “save” the world. By this interpretation, access to and participation in the creation of media is the means by with the citizen is made cosmopolitan.