A Global Collaborative Sphere: Worldviews, Books, Articles, ?
Some would say that we have seen new media before, such as radio for example. But previous new media, among which especially radio and TV, were mass-media (one to many), and thus not very suitable for philosophy. They favoured the factory model of culture, according to which culture is a product, centrally produced, boxed, branded and then channeled to a mass audience. Under such a model of culture, broad common denominators have to be found in order to be successful. The web on the other hand is many to many, and thereby enables something called peer to peer production. Which is another word for voluntary co-creation, not very different from what people have historically been doing in their studies and on village squares. The difference is that now, with Web2.0, there is not just a global village announcer, but a global cultural society too.
And similarly to how the globalisation of markets has brought increased economic development, the internet is now enlarging the social sphere, and with it the ease, reach and effectiveness of (voluntary) cooperation on cultural creation. A well known example of something produced in this way is Wikipedia: the 7th most visited website in the world, containing more than 2.8 million articles in English, and in excess of 8 million articles in 235 other languages, as opposed to the 0.7 million in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Another, earlier example is Free Software: without much coordination ten-thousands of volunteers have created software of the highest quality, like the Linux operating system, OpenOffice and the Firefox browser.
Eric S. Raymond described this last example as a move from the cathedral- to the bazaar-model of software-development. The cathedral-model has a single architect or author who is responsible for the grand design, and who only presents his creation to the world when it is perfect, while in the bazaar-model the design gradually evolves from collective contributions. The adage there is release early and release often. And while all this might sound futuristic or far-fetched, the bazaar-model shares much with academic tradition. The move in philosophy from the classical schools with their all-encompassing world-views, to the medieval book as a philosopher's magnum opus in which all predecessors were repeated, to the journal-article of the enlightenment, in which they are summarised and referred to, can be seen as a move in the direction of a bazaar-model. Other similarities are decentralized operation and peer-review.
If we reckon that the move to journals came about because articles are shorter and more focused, have much faster turnover times for the `conversation', and thus make cooperation easier, then the web can bring many improvements in these respects. Especially because the only really new thing of the Free Software example was its use of the web which - through its shorter turnaround times, its many-to-many nature, and its global reach - has proven to be very suitable for peer to peer production. The web - to paraphrase McLuhan - "compresses time and space" more than the journal, and even more than the book. Thus if we are allowed to extrapolate, then at the very least, there should be room for the web as an informal medium for philosophy, next to journals and books.