Citing the impact that Wikipedia had post-Tsunami, Dr. Lucas Gonzalez of the Canary Islands in Spain is attempting to use the publically authored and edited site to help prevent, slow and survive an outbreak. I find this fascinating not simply because it’s an illustration of the growing public awareness of the power of things like Wikipedia, but because of how different a world we live in.
As Barry discusses, one of the critical problems during the 1918 pandemic was one of communication. Fearing panic, the government cracked down on the media, using official and unofficial channels to suppress and control content they believed to be objectionable or incendiary. The unfortunate result of all of this was that the public completely lost faith in any sort of official media, and like the boy who cried wolf when the time came to get actually truthful information out, no one believed it. When you see reports daily that nobody’s really dying, and daily claims that the cure is almost here, then walk down the street and see crepe paper (used to mark houses where a victim had passed away) on every house, you know something’s not right. Hopefully we never test the hypothesis, but with Wikipedia – or more decentralized means like blogs – it’s difficult to imagine that sort of censorship in today’s world (unless the internet itself was shut down).
The Tsunami entry sold me on the value of Wikipedia, but this is a pretty amazing concept nonetheless. Even to consider this possibility inspires me…
I wonder if or how many schools are blocking Wikipedia?