The web is a levelling ground, founded on libertarian ideals of openness, freedom and a democratisation of information and knowledge. This has been replicated again and again, throughout the web’s history, in projects like the WELL, the WikiWikiWeb and, now, Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is considered the modern poster child of the libertarian ideal. Jimmy Wales, founder of the site, is completely transparent about his objective: to challenge the academic Ivory Tower with his free and open technological knowledge solution. Yes, it is an empowering force: consumers re-appropriate knowledge by creating their own versions of reality through an extraordinary experiment in crowdsourcing an objective truth from the wisdom of the crowd.

But, as Kevin Kelly recently wrote in Wired, the pathway this digital utopia has actually taken has led it towards something a little more structured, a little more elitist, a little more bourgeoisie. The content you browse on its 2,942,000+ pages has been vetted by a group of people who have become subject specialists, and who decide what to include and what to remove. These people may not have been given any special roles by Wikipedia Central, but they have taken it upon themselves to own certain portions of data content, making it difficult for newcomers to put their personal spins on the content in the online encyclopedia. In other words, the Wikipedia phenomenon replicates the existing structures of power and control of information thanks to the spontaneously generated new gatekeepers who have grown out of that most important of web assets, the community.

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